Brant Bender is a Tier 3 Systems Engineer who has worked with ISI, the title sponsor for the MI Titanium, for two years. Last year Brant and his wife Leslie took on the Half Distance Triathlon as a relay team together. This year, they will race side by side in the inaugural Olympic Distance triathlon at Versluis Park.
Brant met Leslie at a party at Michigan State University, and they have been together ever since. They were married in June 2006, but Brant says, “It doesn’t seem that long. It always shocks me when I realize that we have been together over nine years already.” Together they have three children. Claire, a compassionate, curious 2 year old who loves books, swimming, and eating (apparently she will eat just about anything). Adeline, age 7, is described as a fierce competitor. She’ll be starting second grade this year and is active in soccer, softball, and dance. Braun, the little man of the family is 5, he enjoys soccer, baseball, and sprinting. He loves to race against his friends and will be racing his way into Kindergarten this fall.
Brant was motivated to become a triathlete last year when his employer, ISI owner Ryan Leestma, issued a challenge to all ISI employees to complete the MiTi. Many accepted the challenge and started training immediately. Brant says, “Ryan has been very supportive in this endeavor, providing everything we needed to get started.” This is part of why ISI came on as title sponsor for the MI Titanium. Ryan is very passionate about the sport and loves supporting the triathlon community in West Michigan.
Last year’s Grand Haven Tri was scheduled to be Brant’s first triathlon, but due to conditions in Lake Michigan, it was changed to a duathlon. Brant was frustrated, as running is his weakest discipline and swimming is his favorite. But like most triathletes can attest to, the positive encouragement of the other athletes made the experience fun. His first chance to compete in a triathlon was at the 2014 ISI MI Titanium. Brant and his wife entered the Half Distance relay, with Brant swimming and biking farther than he ever had before and Leslie taking over and finishing the run for the team. Competing with his wife has been a highlight of his short triathlon career.
Brant isn’t new to sports, but he is new to racing. In high school, he played baseball and football, and today he plays softball as often as possible. An old sports-related ankle injury keeps him from being able to really push it on the run during triathlons.
Training for a triathlon when you have small children is not always easy. Brant trains almost exclusively during his lunch hour, which makes long distances a challenge. On the weekends in winter, Brant and Leslie make use of childcare at the YMCA to get workouts in. In the summer, they swim and bike as a family when their schedule allows.
It’s great to see the Benders turn the ISI MI Titanium into an event that’s all about fun, fitness, and family. We wish them all the best during their race.