How I Reached the Breaking Point Last Saturday — and Then Kept Going

Posted By on Aug 21, 2014 | 0 comments

How I Reached the Breaking Point Last Saturday — and Then Kept Going

Posted By on Aug 21, 2014 | 0 comments

Elephants actually love that stuck-in-the-mud feeling. Me..? Not so much. (Photo by Clive Reid.)

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.

My first metric century (100 km+) bike ride! It was a fun tour of several major trails around DC.

My first metric century (100 km+) bike ride! It was a fun tour of several major trails around DC.

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!!

(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!

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

Are elephants at their breaking point? (Photo from

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!

Donate Today!

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.


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Audre is a writer, elephant advocate, and brand-new cyclist who's training to bike 300 miles in September to raise funds for the African Wildlife Foundation. Yes, she really is that crazy about elephants! Learn more and donate today.
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