Ironman of God
A training regimen for a good life
Bradford Lartigue and I met to chat at Caliber Coffee. He knew everyone – every single person already there and every person who walks in. The interview was periodically and endearingly interrupted by handshakes, hugs and caring conversations: Lartigue expressing concern for an injured child, catching up with 20-somethings he knew from church and exchanging pleasantries with the baristas. His focused effort at creating community is apparent – even during a brief conversation in a coffee shop.
Big Sky’s resident Ironman preacher and leader of the nonprofit Big Sky Resort Ministries keeps an exhausting life pace. Between driving kids to school on the school bus, teaching them how to swim, offering a church service on the slopes at Big Sky Resort and remaining in a constant state of training for his next big athletic goal – Lartigue admits there are nights when he goes home and collapses. Exhausted though he may sometimes be, he has become a recognizable force for good in the community.
“Yesterday I was on my snowboard. Saturday, I skate-skied 13 miles at Lone Mountain Ranch after Crossfit. Then I practiced Christmas Eve music up at the resort, came down did the skate skiing,” he stated. “By the time I got home I was ready to collapse, but then I had to work on printing the programs and finetuning the worship stuff.”
The son of a preacher and professor from Louisiana, Lartigue said he never really suffered the preacher kid complex. He never went wild and never shook his faith, in fact, it was a volunteer trip to the Caribbean when he was 19, and a resulting near-drowning incident which further strengthened his faith, that solidified his determination to become an excellent swimmer.
“I survived, and it motivated me. When I went back to school, I signed up for an endurance swimming class at the university level,” he said. “I remember the midterm was to swim a half mile nonstop. The final was to swim a 1,600-meter swim. Before that class was over, I was thinking I would take it a step further and get my lifeguarding certification.”
Lartigue’s goal for 2019 is to complete three triathlons: The Bozeman Tri in June, Ironman Boulder 70.3 in August, and Ironman Louisville 140.6 in October.
His disciplined quest to live life well is multi-dimensional: mind, body, spirit. Constantly learning – so that he’s not in a bubble. Constantly working his body – so that he can fully embrace this life and honor the physical body he was provided. Constantly working on his faith – studying and restudying his bible so that he can continue to expand his spiritual knowledge.
“When we tie into the spiritual part of who we are it’s just part of what makes us a well-rounded person,” he said. “It’s another discipline that we have in our spiritual life. Some people get it from being outdoors; some people get it from other people.”
Lartigue said he feels he is answering a calling that God placed in his life to serve in ministry and serve his community.
“I basically am doing this because I love creating a taste of eternity, which is how I see it,” he said. “I’m going to refer to a life verse of mine which helps me put everything in a foundational perspective: to be a reflection of how Christ would want us to live our lives. For me, I think it’s just personifying a display of the love God wants us to have for people in general.”
He was featured in the 2016 book, “Servants on the Slopes– Stories of Faith over Failure, and the Miracle of Changed Lives.” In it, he details his near-death experience, in addition to how he went from “nerd to athlete” and pioneered the outdoor ministry at Taos Ski Valley. He also did the Yellowstone Christian Innovator Ministry for 21 years and remains the chaplain for the Big Sky Fire Department. He does swim camp for the Big Sky Community Organization as well as private lessons from June-August.
“We’re not created to be silos, we are here to create community,” said Lartigue. “How do we contribute as an individual; a couple or as a family? That can be contributing to a community organization. That can be contributing to Big brother Big Sisters, the food bank or Habitat for Humanity. I don’t mean just giving money to them, but giving some sweat equity: hammering a nail, etc. Those things to me are what give you a really healthy balance in life.”
He’s getting older – Lartigue pointed out – and he would like to find someone who would like to take the helm when he slows down. In the meantime, he said he is “just pursuing life and just doing what drives me to live.”