Butterfield to make most of peak years
Tyler Butterfield believes he is entering his peak as a triathlete but admits he will be hard-pressed to better his career-best finish at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships.
Butterfield feels he is in the ideal mind-body state and really beginning to benefit from the knowledge he has cultivated after years of competing at the highest level.
At 32, and with a few more prime years before he experiences the irreversible downturn, Butterfield intends to spend the rest of his career chasing a podium finish at Kona.
“I definitely don’t train as hard as I did when I was 19,” said Butterfield, who finished fifth in arguably the world’s toughest race earlier this month.
“I can’t, my body just won’t let me. But you have the strength, you have the years, and that compounds.
“The peak years for Ironman are between 30 and 40 and I’m definitely in my prime. The goal is to improve on my fifth place. That’s the big jump now, to try and make the top three.”
Butterfield decided at the start of the year to abandon his dream of competing at a third Olympic Games and instead focus on long-distance triathlons which suit him better.
The Colorado-based athlete, who competed at Athens 2004 and London 2012, has been forced to accept his body is just not built for the shorter Olympic-distance races.
“I’d love to say there was a small possibility of winning a medal at an Olympics or world championships, but there isn’t — I’m just not suited to that,” said Butterfield, who returned to the Island last week to show his support for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Bermuda.
“If I made it to Rio [the 2016 Olympics] I would be around 35th to 40th — that’s where I line up against the world’s best.
“But in an eight-hour race, on a good day, I should be ninth or tenth. As we saw in Kona with my fifth place, not everyone has good days at the same time.
“If you’re not in the top ten, no one cares. If you don’t think you’re in the form for a top-ten finish, it’s not really worth committing to Kona for the whole year.”
He may be one of Bermuda’s “big-time” athletes, along with triathlete Flora Duffy and footballer Nahki Wells, but Butterfield is certainly not a household name off the Island, not even in the world of triathlon.
Not that he is complaining. Far from it, in fact, with Butterfield the first to admit he enjoys the quiet life and performs far better when he is unburdened with extra pressure.
“I’m not a huge name in the United States where I tend to enjoy a lower profile” he added.
“The industry sponsors seem to like it when you’re more flamboyant and that’s great when you’re racing well because you can make a name for yourself.
“But it’s easy to say the wrong thing and if you have a few bad races you can’t have your cake and eat it. Everyone works differently. Some people like to put pressure on themselves and put their back against the wall as it makes them step up and perform.
“But whenever I put pressure on myself I don’t perform. I do better when I take the pressure off and then I find the racing more enjoyable.”
Growing up in Bermuda’s humid subtropical conditions provided Butterfield with the perfect climate to cope with the gruelling physical demands of Kona, a race he has twice finished in the top ten in the past four years.
He points to Karen Smith’s first-place finish in the 45-49 age group last year, as well as Mark Wilcox’s victory in the executive challenge in 2013 as further proof that Bermuda athletes thrive on the “Big Island”.
“I’m lucky I come from Bermuda which is hot and humid,” Butterfield said. “I think lots of Bermudians do well in Kona because of that.
“The roads are small and we have to share the traffic with cars when we run or cycle, but Bermuda is very conducive to doing well in Kona. They’re both volcanic Islands.”
n The Bank of Bermuda Foundation Triathlon will be held in St George’s on Sunday.
Two new winners will be crowned at the event in the absence of Neil de Ste Croix and Karen Smith, last year’s men’s and women’s champions.
De Ste Croix is preparing for the Xterra World Championships in Maui next weekend, while Smith is unable to compete because of an injury.