Dad and Daughter Duo Compete Together at Duathlon National Championships

By Stephen Meyers | April 09, 2019, 12:46 p.m. (ET)

Mike and Bella Buenting

Training through the long, cold, snowy winter of Minnesota, 16 year old Bella Buenting is excited to travel south and finally ride her bike outside at the USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships. 

Thanks to a bet with her dad, Mike, she has a lot riding on the race, too. 

Win her age group and dad takes Bella and a best friend on a trip to California. 

“We’re always making bets like that, me and my dad,” Bella said. “I love the ocean and hanging out at the beach and walking around L.A., so that’s good motivation for sure.” 

These little bets between dad and daughter are common – Bella usually wins – and they’re just a piece of the bond the pair shares as they incorporate multisport into their lives. Together, they’ll compete in Greenville, South Carolina, at the 2019 USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships, along with mom, Shannon. All three have the goal of qualifying for the 2020 ITU Multisport World Championships Festival. 

From weekend group rides to sneaking in a run workout together after high school swim practice, the Buenting’s lives revolve around swim, bike, run. Exhibit A: During a Christmas vacation last year to Santa Barbara, California, they found a running path along the ocean and did a 12x400 interval workout. 

“It’s sort of what we do. It’s what we love. Bella and I love to swim, bike and run, and Shannon runs and bikes,” said Mike, a longtime runner, turned multisport athlete who has his own coaching business and is a four-time Team USA member. “Pretty much all of our weekend travels and vacations revolve around racing.” 

Last September, the Buentings went on the ultimate family triathlon vacation – competing for Team USA at the World Triathlon Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia. Bella and Mike raced, and Shannon traveled to cheer them on. The experience “was amazing,” Bella said, and among the highlights for her was getting to pet and hold a koala bear. 

“They’re so very soft and it’s fun to hug them,” said Bella, who placed 28th in the world in the sprint race in her 16-19 age group. “To race for Team USA and travel to Australia was a really exciting trip and a once in a lifetime experience.” 

Mike echoed the same sentiments as Bella, and said the trip – and the family’s involvement in multisport – has brought the family closer. 

When Bella was little, she would run 5ks with mom and dad, before jumping into triathlon with dad around age 8. Competing in local races and IRONKIDS events, Bella showed tremendous potential at a young age, combining her strong swimming skills with a strong engine for endurance. 

More importantly, she found a sport – and a new connection – with her dad. Their relationship has certainly strengthened thanks to multisport, as the pair spends so much time together training. 

During the summer, Bella joins dad for a group ride every Saturday morning with fellow cyclists and triathletes. Bella’s the only teenager among the group of middle-aged athletes and moms she babysits for. Shy, quiet and humble, Bella more than holds her own in the group rides. 

“She’s a pretty strong rider. Some of the riders, they’ll see this little kid and she just smokes them,” said Mike, who can see the confidence beaming from Bella during those rides. 

Sometimes it’s just the two of them on their bikes, and dad and daughter share precious time together to talk life. They’ll chat about their race goals, college plans (Bella wants to compete in triathlon) and favorite music (Mike works in the music industry). 

And they’ll make those bets.

“Triathlon, duathlon, multisport – it’s a way of life for us. It’s our passion, it’s what we live for and base everything we do around. It’s that common thing that we all have and share together,” Mike said. “I love being able to spend that time with my daughter, sharing with her something we both love.”