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Oh brother! Butterfield returns to triathlon

Spencer Butterfield will compete in his first triathlon for 24 years alongside his brother Tyler this weekend

It has been more than 20 years since Spencer Butterfield competed in a triathlon, that is all going to change on Saturday.

Butterfield will be part of a strong Bermuda contingent, which includes brother Tyler, racing at the North American Pro Championships.

The event in St George, Utah, is a big step up from the last time Spencer Butterfield took part in the sport, which was an IronKids Triathlon at Clearwater Beach some 24 years ago.

“I told Ty that this wasn’t on my list of things to accomplish this year, and it’s been kind of thrown on there by him,” Spencer Butterfield said.

Even so, that does not mean that Butterfield expects to enjoy the experience. Happy with swimming, cycling and running as individual pursuits, his only goal in St George will be to finish.

“I enjoy, and I think I can do well in, any one of the disciplines independently,” he said.

“But stringing them all together, I’ve told Ty that I don’t anticipate that I’m going to enjoy that.

“My hope is that I finish without blowing up, don’t come off the bike and have to sit watching Tyler finish from the sidelines.”

It helps that cousin Ashley Estwanik and training partners Phil Mace and Neil Lupsic will be among the ten triathletes travelling from Bermuda to compete this weekend.

Still, Spencer Butterfield did not even begin training with the intention of running an ironman, his focus over the past 12 months has been the Spartan Series, an obstacle course race that is televised on NBC.

A sport that involves a lot of mountain running, training at home proved difficult for Butterfield, who had to contend with low altitude and no real hills.

“In order to keep the fitness up without doing as many road miles Tyler gave me a bike, so I was doing some bike riding and also some swimming.

“I’m really enjoying the bike riding, and a number of the guys here in Bermuda that I train with are going. So, with Ty being there and a group of guys that I train with also going it seemed like an event to go to.”

Butterfield has yet to decide if Saturday’s race will be a one off, or the first of many, but the Spartan Series is likely to take a back seat for a while, especially as he has begun to enjoy the cycling more and more.

The triathlon has also allowed him to connect with Tyler, which Spencer Butterfield said had become the main point for him in returning to triathlon. The two brothers discuss racing, training and a host of other topics on a regular basis.

“To be honest I’m enjoying the bike riding, so I may do some more of that, but I’m really just enjoying the fitness and the connection with Ty,” said Spencer Butterfield, who won the local men’s competition at this year’s Front Street Mile

“It’s a great way for the two of us to connect, keeps us close, that has kind of become the main point for me, the family connection.

“The guys that are winning [the Spartan Series] are ten years younger than me, and when I’m competing for those, it’s competing for top ten, which is fun, but you can’t do it all.”

Saturday is still likely to be a strange experience for Spencer Butterfield, who has been more used to travelling around the world cheering his brother on, than competing alongside him.

“I’m gonna miss is not being able to be on the sidelines losing my voice yelling for him,” Spencer Butterfield said.

“But I think during the race I’m hoping he’ll pass me, or I’ll see him along the way, and I’ll be able to yell for him.

“It should be fun, if I don’t get a chance to see him while we’re both racing I’ll miss that factor, but he’s been a real encouragement and I’m having some fun doing it.”

Tyler Butterfield, meanwhile, will race for the second time this season on Saturday, and will hope for a bit more luck than last year.

A mechanical during the bike ride dropped him down the field and he ended up finishing thirteenth. If he is to podium he will need to be on top form as the event has once again attracted a very strong field.

Germany’s Sebastian Kienle, a two-times gold medal-winner at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, will start as one of the favourites.

Canadian Lionel Sanders has won all three 70.3 races he has entered this year, including the Oceanside 70.3 and Texas 70.3 in April.

Ben Hoffman, of the United States, won the South Africa Ironman last month and was runner-up at Ironman World Championships in 2014.