Three triathlons in three days a matter of faith

The picture of athleticism we might ordinarily associate with a 51-year-old real estate executive from Phoenix would likely be a well-tanned graying man with an impressive golf handicap. Gary Brasher may have the gray hair, but that’s where the comparison to the stereotype ends in terms of a pursuit which most men half his age would find daunting. From Nov. 20-22, Brasher will complete three triathlons in as many days bolstered by spectacular conditioning and an abundant Christian faith. Brasher has been a member and long-time leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and has termed his test of ultra-endurance Triple Iron 422 for the 422.6 miles he will cover those three days of swimming, biking and running. The third and final day of the quest will take place in the Ford Ironman Arizona event in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe. As owner of the Brasher Real Estate brokerage company, he will be taking a few days off for an endeavor that has been as much about his faith walk as physical endurance. “I have been training for this about 11 months now,” Brasher said in an interview with Everyday Christian about the unique FCA fundraiser. “It has really taken a big commitment…time with family, diet, schedule, training, work, et cetera. “I guess my general approach is to try to do as much training early in the morning before the family is up. Then I usually eat at my desk so I can use the lunch hour to train. Finally, I train again in the late afternoon so when I get home in the evening, I’m just with my family. Getting the right number of calories from the right foods, stretching, resting, and training have been great learning experiences for me. You really become attuned to your body and the mental side of training and racing and I have really learned a lot about prioritizing.” Brasher got the idea from an article he read about a man who competed in three triathlons to benefit his local Rotary Club. “As I read the article the words came to my mind…‘how much more you should be willing to do for me’,” he said. “Once I read the article I just kept thinking about what it would take to train for such an endeavor. Frankly, I sort of pushed it from my mind and then one day as I got ready to train for another race I was preparing for I saw on the back of my FCA Endurance jersey it says, ‘Powered by Christ.’ “At that point in dawned on me that the power of Christ was the only way for me to do this. My wife and I began to earnestly pray about it and then prayed with (FCA president) Les (Steckel) and (his wife) Chris. After we all decided through prayer that this was worth pursuing, I began talking to my coach about the training necessary.” Brasher has been a lifelong sports enthusiast well before becoming a triathlete. He was a member of the University of Colorado football team which won the Big Eight Conference and reached the 1977 Orange Bowl. He has been running in 5- and 10-kilometer races since the late ’70s and competed in his first marathon in 2003. Through his work as a housing developer he met up with local triathlon coach Tom Manzi and became interested in the sport. With a long running background, adapting to the two other disciplines has been a work in progress. “I think running is my most natural event, and I have really had to focus on the bike and swim,” Brasher said. “Now I am really enjoying the biking also. Swimming is still my most challenging (event).” A deep faith is an equally strong motivator for Brasher. He said he accepted Christ at an FCA event in high school hosted by members of the Dallas Cowboys. While at Colorado, Steckel – who was head coach of the Minnesota Vikings in 1984 – was one of his assistant coaches. The connection with FCA and Steckel deepened years later. Brasher transferred to and graduated from Arizona State University and later worked for the FBI. He became acquainted with local FCA members through golf tournaments and eventually slid into the real estate business. FCA was in need of a state director and he agreed to temporarily fill the position. During that time he was having a difficult time getting coaches to commit a FCA football camp, when out of the blue he received a phone call from the Cowboys’ Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry. “One afternoon, I got a call from a man who said he would be happy to volunteer and that he had ‘heard’ I was having trouble getting some coaches to attend the camp,” Brasher recalled. “He said he was a coach and would be happy to help me out. I got out my registration form and when I asked his name he said, ‘Tom Landry with the Dallas Cowboys.’ “I honestly thought someone was playing a trick on me. Fortunately not! Once he signed up, it was like the floodgates opened and soon we had hundreds of kids and a good number of coaches all volunteering. This really showed me the power of someone well known in the athletic arena, using his influence as a coach and a Christian to influence others.” Brasher said the support he has received from his family and the congregation at The Church at Tubac, where he and his wife Patricia attend with their children, has been essential to his training. “My family has been and will be a big part of this event,” he said. “They have been supportive with encouragement and making sure I’m getting the rest and nutrition I need. They will also be at the event to support in both of those roles, but also, helping put the pieces back together during the rest times so I can be prepared to get back out there on the swim, bike or the run. Knowing they are there will be a big help as each day wears on. Time with them will give me something to really look forward to each day as we move through this event. “My pastor, Jeremy Hatfield, and the entire congregation have been very supportive. In fact, this was the first group, after Les and the Arizona Team at FCA, which I shared our vision with. Jeremy immediately jumped on board putting information about the event in newsletters. Also, I have been invited to speak to the church on several occasions about how I’m doing, how training is going and prayer needs.” Brasher’s attraction to triathlons has also shaped his faith perspective and the necessity for a sustained Christian outlook on life. “I feel that life and faith are endurance events,” Brasher said. “Neither is a sprint. I have found that in life and in faith, we are faced with a lot of challenges, a lot of ups and downs. FCA is the best ministry I know of to teach these concepts to young people and they use the platform of sport to accomplish this goal. “As I considered this event, I thought, ‘What better way for me to communicate to young people the ‘endurance’ necessary to keep moving forward in life, and in your faith and doing so with faith and character?’, than through this event. In addition, to use this event to draw attention to faith and character in athletics while raising money for FCA to help send kids to camp, was just a great fit for me in my personal walk.” That walk – plus the run, bike and swim – will be steeled scripturally by the verse he wears on his ID badge during competition, Isaiah 6:8 – “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Who Should I send? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” “I’m just a simple guy and I feel that whatever I have is His to use,” Brasher said. “If He can use me, I feel the Lord can use anyone. Maybe this will inspire someone else to take it to the next level.” Links: Triple Iron 422: http://www.tripleiron422.com/ Fellowship of Christian Athletes: http://www.fca.org/ The Church at Tubac: http://www.tubacchurch.org/tubac_church/Welcome.html

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