Kaitlin Elledge—Triathlete, Marathoner, Endurance and Adventure-Sports Enthusiast
Note from Beads of Courage: We are honored to have Kaitlin Elledge as an Official Ambassador of the Beads of Courage Summer Challenge. You can join Kaitlin this summer by taking part in the challenge to log 100 miles of physical activity and raise $100 by the end of summer, September 22. Visit Beads of Courage Summer Challenge to get started today. If you are not able to join the challenge, we welcome your donation to Team BOC. Thank you!
Team Beads of Courage 2022 Summer Challenge Ambassador
By Loni Nannini, Beads of Courage Storyteller
In triathlons, in philanthropy and in life, Kaitlin Elledge endeavors to push herself beyond the edge of extraordinary.
Through her role as a Beads of Courage Summer Challenge Ambassador, she hopes to encourage others to do the same.
“I have been fortunate enough to interact with some of the families who received beads from Beads of Courage and it is so meaningful: These beads just mean the world to them. Beads of Courage has such a real impact in helping the kids and families in our programs deal with really difficult and challenging situations. If I can use my power for good as a Summer Challenge Ambassador, I feel I have the responsibility to do that,” said Elledge.
She was introduced to Beads of courage by her friend, Bryan Reece, a former board member who had learned about the nonprofit from a segment on CBS Sunday Morning.
Reece asked Elledge to participate in the Carry a Bead Program and she was immediately all-in; beads had become part of her training and racing ritual by the time she did her first triathlon ten years ago.
“An Ironman is never easy. There are dark times during the race and it provides so much perspective to consider how these beads and how this story you can help write through your support will positively impact the life of one of the kids in the program. It is certainly impactful for children who receive the beads, but it is also really meaningful to the athletes that carry them,” said the marathoner/soccer player/adventure-sports enthusiast.
In her own experience, Elledge has found that beads truly serve as beacons of light in the darkness, encouraging her to move forward when she is fighting through pain and self-doubt during grueling endurance events hallmarked by 2.4-mile swims, 112-mile bike races and 26.2- mile runs.
“Having beads with me provides much-needed perspective when I am in a dark place during a race. They help me take a step back, focus on the immediate next step, and change my mindset,” said Elledge, who is also a member of the Beads of Courage Board of Directors.
“Yes, everything hurts at mile 13 when you still have 13 miles to go on a run, but we are so fortunate to be able to participate in an Ironman and to compete when so many of the children in our programs are facing much larger struggles. I think about what the kiddos are going through and the fact that pushing through a difficult period in a race might encourage them to push through difficult times in their treatments and that really inspires me.”
Sweat Equity: Fitness Passion Meets Philanthropic Inspiration
Elledge’s love of athletics represents a lifelong passion.
The 33-year-old began playing soccer at the age of four; by high school the native Texan had added track and cross country to her resume as well. Her dedication and talent earned her the opportunity to play soccer at Austin College in Texas.
After graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Spanish—she also earned an MBA from McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin—the woman who “has always really loved being part of a team” put that philosophy to work as an account executive for MetLife in Dallas. Though her career was going strong, she found her athletic life had stalled.
“I had a really fun college experience and after I graduated I wasn’t able to find a competitive team that was a good fit for me. Then my dad decided he was going to train for an Ironman and in fall of 2011, he did Ironman Arizona in Tempe. I went to cheer him on and during the race I went into the Ironman Village and I knew immediately that I had found my people. I said, ‘This is my tribe,’ and I haven’t looked back,” said Elledge, who borrowed her dad’s bike and began training.
A year later she competed in Ironman Arizona herself; since then, her journey has included four additional Ironman races, six half-Iron distance events and numerous shorter races, runs and swims.
“I love challenging myself, and Ironmans and triathlons give me the outlet to do that. There is always something I can work on to better myself for the next race,” said Elledge.
She also appreciates the fact that triathlons are both a team sport and an individual sport.
“Triathlons are a community of people, and that sense of community keeps me coming back,” she said.
Last year, Elledge expanded that community and revisited her team spirit roots by joining the Triple Threat Tough Team, which provides camaraderie along with training support in the form of team swim practice three mornings a week and other opportunities.
“It is not always much fun to get up early to swim by yourself, but it is a heck of a lot of fun if there are 30 people there,” she said.
Ultimately, fun is the foundation of the fitness game and Elledge encourages everyone—from beginners to seasoned competitors—to explore their inner athletes by joining the Beads of Courage Summer Challenge.
Kaitlin’s Credo: Make An Action Plan for Success with 5 Simple Steps
• Every challenge—in life and in fitness—requires a plan.
Elledge said that one of the biggest lessons she has learned from athletics is to build a strategy—including detailed daily and/or weekly goals—and to follow through on execution.
“Whether you have a game plan for soccer or for a triathlon or for building a business, you must execute on the plan you have established. There will be challenging times and struggles and obstacles to overcome, but when you overcome those struggles, you are stronger for it,” she said.
She also emphasized that many people respond best and have increased chances of success when they can pursue small daily or weekly goals.
“Waiting until the last week to try to do 100 miles is much harder than building and executing a plan day-by-day and week-by-week,” she said.
• Practice self-care: Be gracious with yourself.
“There will be days that you will miss your workout, but don’t let that hold you back. It won’t ruin the challenge for you. Continue to move forward and make progress,” said Kaitlin.
• “Left, right, repeat.”
Kaitlin emphasized that every step or stroke counts as you move toward your 100-mile goal.
“Even if your progress is small, it is still progress. And remember, even when you think you can’t, just keep going. Sometimes it is ugly and challenging, but the only way out is to get through it—which is something that many families involved with Beads of Courage also understand,” Elledge said.
• Positivity must be part of every fitness plan.
“A positive frame of mind is critical. You will face challenges in everything you do, and how you respond to those challenges will make all the difference in the outcome,” said Elledge.
• Training is better with a buddy.
Elledge believes that working in pairs—or with a team—makes everything easier and more fun, including the Beads of Courage Summer Challenge. If you don’t have someone to work out with you, recruit a support squad to help boost your effort. She credits her parents, Mark and Patti Elledge, and her fiancée, Keith Hanson, who are “always around to support me and Beads of Courage!”
In lieu of family or other athletes, look to friends for a foundation of support.
“Even just having a supportive friend to hold you accountable or encourage you when you are having a difficult training day makes it easier to continue,” she said.
For more inspirational fitness and training tips, visit Elledge’s website at http://www.kaitlinelledge.com.