Tyler Butterfield is one of a new breed of long distance triathletes who got their start in short course draft racing. However, his similarities with his former ITU colleagues ends there. Hailing from Bermuda, the well-known island 650-miles off the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Tyler was the youngest triathlete on the 50-person start line at the 2004 Athens Olympics before jumping into the European cycling peloton. His experience cycling in Europe put him on the same starting line with the big names of the professional peloton, but also motivated him to return for unfinished business in the triathlon world. Tyler’s top finishes in 2009 and 2010 included 2nd place Boulder 70.3, 3rd place Monaco 70.3, 4th place Ironman Cozumel, 2nd place Philadelphia Triathlon and 3rd place St. Croix 70.3.
Triathlete Magazine: How did you spend your recent time in Kona?
Tyler Butterfield: The first day I got there I rode the whole 180k (of the Ironman Hawaii bike course). It’s interesting because people always say the wind changes but to me coming from the island of Bermuda the wind doesn’t change. It is the road that turns slightly to the left and then slightly to the right. Throughout the ride down the (Queen K) highway, you are zigzagging across the path of the wind, so although it feels like the wind is constantly changing, it is only your own position on the road. Knowing this is a big advantage riding on the course. I wanted to experience it before race day because everyone talks about the wind, the hills and the humidity. With all that said, there is a big difference between March and October.
TM: Was this course scouting always part of your plan once you qualified (Tyler finished 4th at IM Cozumel)?
TB: I wanted to go last year but I didn’t qualify in New Zealand and I didn’t want to try to do one in the summer and then do Kona. I think Kona is one of those races where if you get it right your first time you will want to come back. For me, this whole year is about preparing myself to do well in Kona. You can watch the videos (of the race) but you don’t completely understand it until you go there.
TM: What was the biggest thing you learned?
TB: After the first day of doing the 180k, I ran the next day. I actually did a double run and did the whole run course. I did the 10 miles out and back first thing in the morning and then the 16 miles out to the Energy Lab and back in the afternoon. What really hit me, having done the bike course the day before and the travel to the island, was the undulations. I didn’t see one thing in the course where I thought, ‘wow, this is hard’, but the undulating hills on the bike and run add up and make it hard. There were also a lot of false flat uphills and false flat downhills. You have to be very strong mentally to run like that.
TB: A lot of it is mental. The biggest problem that is physical is that too many athletes are too fit, too early in the year. They are also too excited. One of my friends is Jason Shortis who has won a lot of races in hot climates, like Malaysia and Australia, but has never nailed Hawaii. You have to look at the time of year it happens. Lance didn’t race in both the Giro and the Tour when he was winning his seven Tour titles. He had a schedule and he stuck to it. Some of these guys who are used to racing well in January and March really struggle come October.