Elephants actually love that stuck-in-the-mud feeling. Me..? Not so much. (Photo by Clive Reid.)
What does it mean to reach your breaking point? And what does it mean to then… push past it? To defy it? To turn things back around again, when they seem at their worst, and when progress seems impossible?
These are questions I’ve never really asked myself before, but I’m thinking about them a lot lately — both for my training for this challenge, and for the elephant crisis I care about so much, too. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Long-Distance Training Means Flirting With That Point of No Return
Since I’m a new cyclist, and have never trained for a long-distance athletic event before (or taken on a fundraising goal this big before), I was never expecting this process to be easy. But I’ve found it’s been difficult (and rewarding) in ways I didn’t quite expect.
Physically, yeah. It’s been tough! Let’s keep in mind that my previous sport of choice before I signed up for this challenge was Netflix marathoning, heh. But I’m getting stronger every day. And I was prepared for that one.
The surprise for me has really been the mental aspect, as they call it. Every time I’ve pushed myself harder than I have before in training, I’ve found myself getting to this point (usually somewhere between 50-75% of completing my goal) where I’ve come so, so, SO CLOSE to just… giving up.
Take this past Saturday for example. I am super proud to announce that I rode my first Metric Century! Also known as 100 km, or 62+ miles in a day. Yeah!!
My first metric century (100 km+) bike ride! It was a fun tour of several major trails around DC.
(Actually let me take another moment to say, Yeah!!!!!)
The best part of that ride was that I felt totally fine the next day.
The worst part was, that moment, about 50-75% in there, when I almost completely convinced myself that I couldn’t do it.
I was heading north on the Capital Crescent Trail, after having already ridden around say 40 miles at this point. My riding partners (who were awesome, by the way!) had gone on ahead and would be waiting for me at our next meeting spot. It was hot. I was tired. Some big hills on an earlier portion of my ride had made my legs a little wobbly.
And the trail was blissfully shaded, and lined with these gorgeous trees, and these little stretches of lush, green grass… My eyes were drooping… and literally all I could think about was pulling over and lying in the grass and taking a 3-hour nap.
It was so seductive. It was calling to me. I started planning ahead the things I would text my riding partners so they wouldn’t wait for me anymore. I started planning how I’d rationalize it to myself afterwards so I wouldn’t feel guilty. “Maybe you were a little too ambitious. It’s ok. You’ve still made a lot of progress. You can stop now.”
But… then, at the same time, there also was the part of me who said, “Wait a minute, Audre. You’ve been here before.”
“Remember that time you were doing that 50 mile ride by yourself, and around mile 35, you had pretty much 99% decided you were going to call Uber to drive you home the rest of the way? You literally had the Uber app open on your phone and you had already calculated what the fare would be.”
“Or, remember that time you did your first 40 miles (seems so long ago!), and you burst into tears halfway through because your head hurt and your back hurt and you were so tired and you thought there was no way you could ever finish this ride, let alone the entire challenge?”
“And then… remember how you were wrong?”
Because, yeah. Each time I’ve felt myself reach that breaking point in previous training sessions, I’ve forced myself to keep going.
And the amazing part was, it got better. Almost right away, in fact. If 50-75% of the way through the ride has been my worst, then that last 25% to the finish has been the best. It’s like a smooth sailing dream. Yeah, I’m tired, but mentally, I feel great.
And then the way I feel at the end? When I’ve accomplished something that just a couple hours before, I never thought was possible?
Yeah, you guessed it. It feels AWESOME! It feels like a thousand exclamation points exploding inside my head all at once.
It’s actually kind of addicting, that feeling… Hmm. I might be in trouble…
We just rode more than 60 miles! We are happy! And exhausted!
Ok, So What Does This Have to Do With Elephants, Again?
Well, this has been a tough week in the elephant world, so to speak. A major, reputable study was released this week that confirmed everyone’s worst fears:
More than 100,000 elephants were killed by poachers in the last 3 years alone.
In Central Africa in particular, 64% of its elephant population has been lost in the last 10 years. (At this rate, will there be any left there at all in 10 years?)
Are elephants at their breaking point? (Photo from AWF.org)
In other words, it was just another series of news stories that brought up those horrible numbers that are so huge, and depressing, and frustrating, that they make anyone who cares about elephants get overwhelmed.
It all seems too daunting. You feel powerless. You feel scared. You feel angry, but you feel like things might be too big to change. Like the worst is inevitable, and unstoppable. “Hope,” that magical sweet little bubble floating above you, seems too far away to grasp.
Elephants, as a species, are very close to reaching their breaking point. And it’s a very real risk. We could lose them, like we’ve lost other species before. We humans could very well look back from the not-too-distant future and say, “Elephants are extinct, and we made that happen.”
But the Ending Hasn’t Been Written Yet
Here’s the thing. If my own little cycling training can be a small if imperfect metaphor (and I hope it can), then what I’ve learned is that breaking points aren’t absolute.
What seems inevitable is not necessarily inevitable.
But only if you keep going. Only if you push past those moments of fear, and overwhelming doubt, and exhaustion. Only if you find yourself reaching your limits, and somehow manage to convince yourself that “Nope. Those aren’t my limits. Nice try, limits, but I’ll see ya on the other side. (Suckers).”
Now… How do we do it? I don’t know. It takes passion. It takes a fierce determination. It takes an annoying stubbornness. And it takes a lot of pride.
I see that passion and determination in a lot of the organizations that are rallying to protect our world’s last elephants. (Or really, rallying towards any cause that moves them). One of those is the African Wildlife Foundation, the major beneficiary for our Climate Ride.
But it takes help, too. For me on a personal level, the support (not just donations — although donations are awesome! — but just encouragement and cheerleading and well wishes) from the people in my life helps me when I start getting overwhelmed.
(On my long ride on Saturday, for example, the support of the awesome Women & Bicycles women who joined my training ride really helped keep me going. Thanks again, ladies!)
For organizations like AWF, help means helping them spread their message. Letting people know that you care about what they care about too. Signing the petitions. Sharing the links. Giving them that strength in numbers that helps them change policies and make a difference.
And, Yeah… Donating!
This is one of those cliches that you hear all the time, but hey, it turns out it’s true. Every dollar does make a difference.
Whether you have a lot or a little to give, please chip in to our goals if you can. Fundraising-wise, I’m almost at $2,000 myself and Claudia is at $1,000!
That means we have come a long way towards meeting our goals and being able to participate in the Climate Ride, but we’re not there yet.
Please donate to her or to me, and spread the word. We will be so completely grateful!
P.S. And if you’re in the Washington DC area next Thursday Aug. 28, come to our Elephant Happy Hour fundraiser! All and any are welcome. See our Facebook event page for details.
Permalink/Leave a Comment
Elephant fans around the globe (ele-fans?) are celebrating World Elephant Day today, wearing grey and raising critical awareness about how we’re at risk of losing these wonderful animals forever… if we don’t end the poaching epidemic now.
In honor of the day, here are 3 out of the 3,000 reasons why elephants are worth saving!
1. Elephant Poop Is a Really Big Deal
No, really. Elephants are what scientists refer to as a “keystone species” — an animal that has an especially huge impact on the environment it lives in. In the case of elephants, these giant pachyderms help keep grasslands intact by eating the trees that could overgrow the grass — a very good thing for all the countless animals and plant life that depend on that grass.
Also, the seeds of several trees and plants can only take root after first being digested and then dispersed by an elephant… In other words, elephants keep plants growing through the power of their poop.
If you take out the elephants, the entire ecosystem will be in grave danger, and the impact of their loss is hard to imagine.
2. Elephants Teach Us About Our Own Emotions
Elephants have been proven to experience a wide range of powerful emotions — everything from joy to fear to love and even grief. Last month, the story of abused Asian elephant Raju, who wept when he was freed from his chains, went viral and moved thousands of people. And the heartbreakingly sad mourning rituals that African elephants go through when a family member dies continue to fascinate scientists and stir our empathy.
We still have a lot to learn about how elephants experience emotions. And it’s an important area of study, because it also helps us learn more about how and why we human animals experience emotions, too. What does it mean, really, to mourn? By watching elephants, we can learn about ourselves.
3. Elephants Have Complex (and Really Cool) Social Structures
Riveting dramas and elaborate narratives could probably be written about the complex social worlds of elephants. Elephant herds are matriarchal — in other words, the head of each herd is a clear leader who is the oldest, wisest and smartest female in the family and larger bond group. The other full-grown female elephants in her family will form their own hierarchy below her, and they’ll all pitch in with daily duties like babysitting the calfs, hunting for the sweetest bushes to nosh on and guarding against danger.
Male elephants, meanwhile, leave their female mothers and aunts and cousins when they reach adolescence, and form small roaming bachelor herds for several years. Once they’re fully in their prime, the males roam solo, ranging far and wide in search of females from other herds to mate with.
There aren’t many matriarchal animal species out there, especially species as wildly intelligent and emotionally complex as elephants. Elephants are without a doubt one of the most fascinating and compelling animals we know… All the more reason to protect them while we still can.
Donate to an Ele-Friendly Organization to Honor Elephants Today!
This World Elephant Day, take a moment to marvel at the awesomeness of elephants. And then, if you can, please support the organizations that are working hard to protect them!
There’s a lot of really great groups you can support.
Here at Biking for Elephants, we’re fundraising for the African Wildlife Foundation by signing up for a 300-mile bike ride from New York to Washington, DC.
Please help us meet our fundraising goals with a tax-deductible donation today. You’ll help secure our spots in the ride and support great work on the ground to protect the world’s last elephants at the same time. Thank you!
Permalink/Leave a Comment
One of the lovely, smooth bike trails in Denver along the Platte River.
With a bit more than 6 weeks to go until my big ride (ahhhhhhh!!), you can bet that my training is in full force! I’m getting really psyched about the ride, and I’ve been doing my best to keep my training a priority, even during this busy summer.
For example — last week I had to go to Denver on a work trip. But I didn’t let that slow me down. In the evenings after work I was cross-training in my hotel gym (I found these great, free mobile spinning class mp3s that I used a couple times), and then over the weekend, I rented a bike and explored Denver’s really excellent network of bike trails.
Why Denver Is Both Awesome and Terrible for Biking
Ok, first let me say that Denver is not actually terrible for biking at all. But it was a lot more challenging than I expected! Mostly I wasn’t expecting the altitude to be such a factor.
Denver is deceptively flat — Colorado’s famed huge mountain ranges are far away along the distant horizon — but it’s still at an overall altitude level where I found myself doing that lovely huffin’-and-puffin’ thing way more easily than I was used to. My heart rate was also BA-BOOMing with relatively minimal effort.
It actually felt like some of my early training rides 2 months ago… like I had gone back in time in terms of my level of being in shape. Crazy, right? Made me appreciate again how far I’ve come here in my sea-level training in DC.
Not the best biking selfie ever taken, but… check out the Denver skyline in the back! And I’m smiling on the inside here, I swear.
The other thing is it was HOT! Here in DC, I of course complain all the time about the heat and humidity. Denver was blissfully dry on my biggest biking day… but that was challenging too. Fierce, desert-like sun to contend with, and whatnot.
Anyway, I still managed to get in about 40 miles of riding on my rented road bike, so that is awesome!
The best part of biking in Denver is it has some amazing bike trail infrastructure. I rode on two seperate trails — the Platte River trail and the Cherry Creek trail. Both offer smooth, pathed, uninterrupted riding for miles at a stretch, with neat views of the city skyline, the mountains, the river/creek, etc. I loved that.
Wait… What Have I Become?!
Let’s all take a moment to marvel at the fact that this training has turned me into one of those weird active/healthy people who do things like rent bikes on vacations… How amazing is that? I did briefly have one of those “Wait, who are you and what have you done with Audre?” moments. Those are good moments to have.
And it was fantastic. I discovered biking is a great way to get a feel for a new city/new place. I can seriously see myself continuing to do this type of thing, even after this particular training challenge is over. That alone is worth being proud of, I’d say.
My next big training milestone is to do a 60 mile ride. I’ve got that scheduled for next Saturday and might even have some people I’ve met join me! As always my motto is/will be, “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you keep going.”
But this weekend there’ll be plenty of riding too, including with my wonderful fundraising team member Claudia.
My biggest goal right now is just to keep building up my endurance over multiple days of riding in a row. I feel like I can handle any single day of long distance riding easy now, which is great. But I need to get my butt, body and bike ready for a whole week of that!
My Training Records So Far
Longest Distance (single day): 50 miles
Longest Distance (over one week): 98 miles
Thanks for supporting me!
I couldn’t do this if I didn’t know I had so many people cheering me on, reading my posts, etc. So thank you!
And an especially huge thank you to everyone who has donated so far to the cause.
If you haven’t yet, please consider chipping in what you can. I’m getting near my first fundraising milestone, and need to reach certain levels to 1) have my spot secured in the ride, and then 2) participate at all. The funds go towards the cause that has inspired me to take on this challenge to begin with: helping to save our world’s last elephants.
If you love elephants, or biking, or me, please contribute if you can! You can donate online to my goals by clicking this link here. Thank you!
And expect lots of more updates from me soon.
Permalink/Leave a Comment