After attempting the gruelling Lakeland 200 twice Jenni Myers shares her thought-provoking take on “the story of the scratcher”. The tenacious Jenni, podcast host, all-around adventurer and mental health advocate has done a deep dive into the scratch for us.
The Lakeland 200. I’m not sure you can truly appreciate the magnitude of the achievement of completion until you have put your own tyres to the rocks and gravel of those Lakeland fells. I have now made two attempts to conquer the Lakeland 200 as an ITT and today, as I regather my mind and body, I will offer a bow of respect to those mountains, turn around and walk away. I wish I could do this with my head held high but right now it’s feeling very heavy.
I’m going to tell you the story of the scratcher because in a world where success is so widely celebrated, I think it’s important to highlight the significance of failure. As an avid follower of ultra cycling, my Instagram feed often has a steady stream of scratch posts, each with its own commentary and story as to which twists of fate and unfortunate circumstances brought their attempt to an untimely end. If we look beyond those select words within a short caption, it is the story between the lines that makes the significance of what the scratcher has achieved much more potent.
I started my year completely burnt out, signed off work and worried about what the future had in store for me. A ray of hope appeared when I entered and finished my first ultra. I wondered if I had found the thing I could achieve success in, but now realise that my vision of success in ultra cycling was clouded by the representation of ultra cycling on social media. No one told me at the time that I would fail more times than I would succeed and no one told me that it is within those times of failure that the true achievements lie.
The last few months have slowly ticked by with a succession of scratches and failed attempts, leaving me wondering if ultra cycling really is for me. It’s hard to admit but this is certainly fuelled by my fear that the peers I surround myself with, both on social media and in the real world, see me as a failing ultra cyclist. So as I sit here on my sofa recuperating from a week of epic proportions, I need to remind myself that what I have achieved is more than I ever thought myself capable of.
Less than seven days before taking on my second attempt of the Lakeland 200 I scratched from GBDuro after 24 hours. A combination of heat stroke, saddle-sores, not being able to eat and an incredibly sore wrist. Less than five days before taking on my second attempt of the Lakeland 200 I was lying on my sofa recovering from heat stroke and hoping my wrist and saddle sores would heal enough to take the beating I knew the Lake District mountains would give them. Despite this I still pushed myself to take on this epic challenge and beat myself up about quitting just before reaching the halfway point. When the overall goal is so much bigger, it’s easy to minimise the achievement of getting half way and overshadow it with the achievements of those who completed.
Having now come to know the route more intimately than I perhaps feel comfortable with, I am absolutely in awe of Lorah, Jade, Naomi and Cat for what they achieved in completing the route. But I am also in awe of Alice and Alex for knowing when it was the right time to step away. They may not have completed the Lakeland 200 but the rides they did complete were outstanding in their own right. Each will come with its own unique story and reason behind the decision to stop. But what is for sure is that whatever that story might be, it will demonstrate a level of determination and resilience that they should be proud of.
I am so grateful to the Steezy Collective and Catherine Dunn for providing a space where I felt supported and encouraged enough to even think about starting something that I knew I mostly likely would not finish. I don’t think I will go back, for now, my story with the Lakeland 200 is over. But I am also not very good at saying no.