Organised chaos the secret to my success’
Tyler Butterfield has revealed the secret behind his scintillating fifth-place finish at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships — “chaos management”.
Achieving a top five in arguably the toughest race in the world is far from an exact science, and there are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong.
First up, there is the 2.4-mile swim in the Bay of Kailua-Kona, which can destroy a triathlete before they even dare think about the 112-mile bike ride in the searing heat of the barren lava fields of the Kohala coast.
And that is all before the full marathon — 26.2 miles to be precise — when the body is screaming for the madness to stop.
Stopping was never an option for Butterfield. Not this time.
He was forced out of last year’s race because of an unforeseen back problem, leaving him more determined than ever to eclipse his previous best, a seventh-place finish, in 2013.
Even so, Butterfield contemplated stopping — well, at least walking, and had to draw on the support of his wife Nikki and children Savana and Walker, cheering him on in the crowd, to prevent him from surrendering to the pain.
“It hurt for a lot of the way and I didn’t feel good for most of the race,” said Butterfield, who had to evacuate his breakfast towards the end of the gruelling bike ride. “I don’t think anybody did — it was brutally hot.
“But that’s just racing. You’re not designed to race for 8½ hours and live on sugar and half a bagel.
“It’s all about minimising the likelihood of a bad day. That’s the thing about Ironman — it’s all about chaos management. You plan for things to go perfectly, but they never do. It’s a bit like life, really.”
The thought of ravaging one’s body in the pursuit of glory is unpleasant even for a two-times Olympian such as Butterfield, who admits to feeling “a little overwhelmed” prior to the race.
He had to reassure himself that even in such a formidable field he was among the elite; a top-ten finish already under his belt.
“That was my third Ironman in less than five months,” said Butterfield, who finished in 8hr 23min 9sec.
“Before the race, in the early hours of the morning, I looked at myself and thought, ‘I can’t believe I have to do another one!’
“I got a little overwhelmed thinking ‘you have to do a marathon after doing 112 miles on the bike. How are you going to do this?’
“I then told myself ‘you don’t have to know how you’re going to do it, you just have to take care of the swim first, and so on.
“Even on the run, I was going from aid station to aid station. I knew where my family were watching from and I said, ‘look, make it to them first and then if you have to start walking you can.’
“I got the result but felt terrible. It was a true day of being an Ironman and suffering to the finish.”
For Butterfield, who proudly carried the Bermuda flag down the home straight, being able to celebrate the finest performance of his career with his family made all the mental and physical torture worthwhile.
“I’d been away from the kids for the last week,” Butterfield said.
“It was pretty special to have them there as they don’t really understand why dad disappears on a plane for a week.
“Savana came running up to me and when I picked her up she started looking around and was like, ‘hey, everyone is clapping’. That was a cool experience.”
It may have been Butterfield’s best-ever performance but he insists he is still searching for that perfect race.
And while he is quick to extinguish any talk of a future podium finish, he is confident he is capable of even more.
“I thought I had a chance of a top five last year and I didn’t even finish,” Butterfield said. “It doesn’t do me any good to get ahead of myself.
“It was amazing to finish in the top five, but it wasn’t a complete performance. It was my career highlight but I feel I can do better, and that’s a nice feeling.”
Butterfield plans to return home this week to watch the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Bermuda.
He may have secured the finish of a lifetime, but it is fair to say his Hawaii experience was anything but plain sailing.
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