Butterfield: swim the key to Hawaii success
Tyler Butterfield believes his performance in the swim at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships will be key in determining whether he finishes in the top ten.
Butterfield will look to lay strong foundations when he takes to the water at the bay of Kailua-Kona for the 2.4-mile swim — the weakest of his three triathlon disciplines.
Although he insists the swim will not make or break tomorrow’s race, Butterfield knows it will be crucial in setting the tempo as he bids to improve on his sensational seventh-place finish in 2013.
“In 2013 I had a great race, but I had a great swim, and it kind of fell into my lap,” said Butterfield, who finished in 8hr 24min 9sec.
“The swim plays a huge part, mainly because it sets up your race, but it doesn’t mean your race is over.
“My goal is top ten again. I’m very realistic but you don’t have to be uber-confident to get a result; you just have to believe in yourself and know you’re a good swimmer, cyclist and runner.”
Two years ago, Butterfield came agonisingly close to a podium finish as he was in fourth place and closing in on the leaders before tiring some two miles to the finish line.
Looking to improve his staying power, he spent the next 12 months focusing on developing his endurance. But it proved to be an error of judgement, with the 32-year-old failing to finish last year’s race because of a back problem.
“Last year I trained the endurance part of the bike and run because in 2013 that’s where I lost time,” said Butterfield, who made his Hawaii debut in 2010.
“I was in fourth in the last 10k and then skipped to seventh. I felt I needed to push my endurance, which made sense, but I neglected what actually got the good result in the first place.”
Butterfield said his race tactics were far from set in stone and was more than prepared to enter “the red zone” and push his body beyond its limit, particularly on the 112-mile bike ride.
“To get a good result here you have to go with the bunch on the bike,” he said. “You need to change your pace and go into the red zone.
“You’ll pay for it on the run, but I’ve always said I’d rather have a slower run by a couple of minutes but a better a position. We’ll see on Saturday if I know what I’m talking about.”
Butterfield hails from an esteemed sporting family. His father, Jim, competed in rowing for Bermuda at the 1972 Munich Olympics and also finished seventh in the 1981 Hawaii Ironman.
Although keen to surpass the Hawaii finish he shares with his father, Butterfield is more irked about never having run a faster marathon than his mother, Debbie, who finished fourth in the 1985 Boston Marathon.
If having two superb athletes as parents was not enough, Butterfield’s older brother Spencer was widely regarded as the more talented of the siblings — a viewpoint shared by Butterfield.
It is Butterfield’s overwhelming desire to challenge himself, formed while growing up in such a gifted household, that left him determined to extract every ounce from his natural ability.
“My mom’s personal best is 2:38 at the US Olympic Trials, so I’ve never ran as fast as my mom in a marathon,” he said. “I’ve always said that one day I want to do it in an Ironman but I’m still ten minutes off.
“My brother was actually the more talented of the two of us; he won almost everything as a kid. I think that’s almost harder because as he got older and started finishing second, suddenly he was like ‘I didn’t win, I don’t like this’. Whereas I often finished second or third and even when I did win my time wasn’t as good as his.
“Growing up in Bermuda, I realised I was a big fish in a small pond. That’s why I love the world championship races because they show where you are in the world.”
Since finishing 34th at the 2012 London Olympics, Butterfield has switched his attentions to the longer form the sport, with a view to conquering the “holy grail” — the Ironman World Championships.
He admits the nerves will be jangling when he stands on the start line tomorrow alongside the world’s top triathletes, including defending champion Sebastian Kienle, of Germany. However, he takes comfort in knowing he can draw from the reservoir of experience he has built from two Olympic Games — he also competed at Athens 2004 — as well as his two seasons as a professional cyclist.
“At the start of the London Olympics I said to myself, ‘this is not Kona, don’t get nervous’,” Butterfield said. “And at the start of the World Championships I’ll say to myself, ‘it’s not the Olympics, don’t get nervous.
“It’s all about tricking your mind. You need to know it’s a big race but you need to have fun and enjoy going hard. For me, I like to try and take the pressure off.”
n Bermuda Triathlon Association are one of 61 vendors participating in the America’s Cup Village next weekend.
The BTA will be hosting an information booth, selling association water bottles, and even hosting a mini-triathlon.
Organisers are asking for volunteers to help man the booth over the three days from October 16 to 18. Volunteers need to give two hours of their time, with a minimum of two people needed per shift. Under-16s are welcome to volunteer, but must be accompanied by an adult.
Anyone who wishes to register can do so at www.bermudatriathlon.com.