Butterfield racing like a kid again’
Tyler Butterfield is revelling in racing “like a kid again” as he enters the twilight of his professional triathlon career.
The 36-year-old secured his spot at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, next year by winning the Ironman Cozumel in Mexico on Sunday, with arguably the best performance of his triathlon career.
He clocked an impressive overall time of 7hr 44min 1sec to become one of just a handful of triathletes to break the 7:45 barrier for the four-kilometre swim, 180km bike and 42km run. Butterfield’s time was the second fastest in history over that distance, in an Ironman-branded race.
After enduring a number of frustrating years, in which he has largely failed to reproduce the form that saw him finish fifth in the Ironman World Championships in 2015, Butterfield conceded the freedom of being unshackled from the pressures of professional restraints has reinvigorated him, treating each race as if it could literally be his last.
“I didn’t know whether I’d be racing this year and strangely that has allowed me to concentrate purely on myself and my training, nothing else has got in the way,” Butterfield said.
“Because I’ve been thinking this is the last year for me, I’ve enjoyed it again. I haven’t been worrying about form or fitness.
“I’ve been racing like I was a kid again, I’m racing because I love doing it and it’s really paid dividends.”
The rejuvenation certainly showed in Mexico as Butterfield recovered from a poor start in the swim and fairly reserved bike, to burst into life on the run, ultimately overhauling a near nine-minute deficit to race leader, Michael Weiss, of Austria, to take the Latin American Championship crown.
“It definitely all come down to the run, there were points where I thought I was out of contention and in the past I believed too much in those self doubts,” Butterfield said.
“This time around, I ignored those self-doubts and kept pushing through until the end of the race. For the run, I laid it all on the line and it just all came together. It still feels surreal to have won such a big race and the Latin American Championships.”
As well the title, victory also secured Butterfield a return to the World Championships in the sport’s spiritual home of Kona. However, he admitted to having mixed feelings about competing again on triathlon’s biggest stage, as he wrestles with thoughts of retirement.
“I have mixed feelings about going to the World Championships in Kona,” he added. “During the race, there was points where I was thinking of calling it a day. However, as I soon as I finished my mind changed.
“I took this year as being my swansong in the professional ranks and I thought to myself, if I won, I might stop. Even the night of the victory, I considered stopping. However, it’s always hard to say no.
“Part of me only wants to go to Kona if I’m in really good shape. I’ve had three really bad years there and I don’t just want to go there to have an average race.
“I’m not interested in doing that. I came to Mexico aiming to get a spot at Kona and I achieved that. However, this race suited me, Kona is completely different. I love Kona, but I won’t be getting ahead of myself because I won this race.
“Winning this race made me feel validated, but right now I’m thinking Kona then that’s it career-wise.
“The good thing for me at this stage of my career is that I don’t have to go, but there is the part of me that knows I’ll regret it if I don’t go.”
The biggest pull away from competing is the opportunity to spend more time with his family, who have supported Butterfield in his professional endeavours, as he once again alluded to life after racing.
“I’ve had a great professional career since my first professional race at 19, but I’m starting to miss other things in my life like family time,” he said.
“It’s an amazing job, but I feel like I’ve done it for long enough, being a professional takes over your life. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a ‘retirement’ race.
“You never know when it might be the end, but at the moment I’m just enjoying it again, not taking it for granted and having fun again.”
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