Tyler Butterfield had quite a fight to get into the 2013 GoPro Ironman World Championships in Kona but once there he had a very fine performance and finished seventh. More recently this quiet Pro from Bermuda finished second at Ironman Cozumel - a race he had planned to simply participate in. He also offered his body and face to raise money for the Movember Foundation and we reported about that earlier.
ST: Thanks for the chat.
Tyler: Cheers, thank you for having me.
ST: Are you still sporting your Movember mustache?
Tyler: Haha, no. I shaved it off December 2nd after Cozumel IM was over. I figured what is a day-and-half longer. Plus it will live on in 2014 via the Men of Triathlon Mo Calendar. Actually excited and a little nervous to see which photos they pick to throw in the Calendar.
ST: Did Nikki and Savana appreciate that look?
Tyler: Not really, Nikki is not a fan and Savana thinks it funny, but tells me to shave all the time.
ST: How many years have you been now involved with this?
Tyler: The last 2 years I have registered for Movember to raise money and the year before I just grew the stache in support. I’m not the most organized person, so it took a year to work it all out.
ST: Let us talk about racing. Last time we talked you mentioned that Cozumel was just a GranFondo Tri to validate, but it looks like you decided to take it serious.
Tyler: Yes that was the plan. But I wasn’t going to not even try, although I thought about it. A day or two before IM Cozumel, I said I’m not doing an IM just to validate ever again. Now I definitely will again. I didn’t know whether or not to relax and get ready to race, or play with Savana at the beach and wild life park. I was lucky the weather was overcast and Nik and Savana were a little sick, so they hung out with me in the room a bit and then I did go to the wildlife park for an hour or two on the Friday before the race, but also I got to see the swim start area again so I was justifying it to myself. I did IM Cozumel in 2009 so I knew the course from memory.
So the plan was try to swim with the main group, and then follow on the bike till I got popped, but the swim felt great, and the ride too. I was waiting till a 100km on the bike to feel the hand-break going on, but it didn’t come. Then on the run I figured I’d run comfortably but fast as I’ve only done speed runs since Kona and nothing long. So do what you’ve trained and it will be more fun till I have to walk maybe the last lap (14km). But I never had to walk. So I finished a very surprising 2nd. Eneko probably deserved 2nd more than me as he worked a lot more on the bike, but I was sure he would out-run me or pass me towards the end of the run. I think we both were happy to get on the podium and make Kona 2014 look very good in terms of a starting position.
ST: When you reached T2 were you surprised by the advantage Michi Weiss had gained on the bike?
Tyler: No not at all. I thought it might be more like 15 minutes and before the race I would have bet he would have had 30 on me. Michi had trained and prepared to race Cozumel. For me and I think Eneko too maybe, we were there to see what was left from Kona and what we had maintained. I know I didn’t deserve to win an Ironman on the training I had done, and if I did, it would have been a bittersweet victory. In training so hard for Kona and knew what I could do, so I was happy to deliver. Cozumel I went in with no pressure or expectation. It obviously worked in my favor, but you don’t want to win your first Ironman like that. Full credit to Michi for racing the way he did. He raced his race the way he wanted.
ST: How much of a battle did you have with Eneko?
Tyler: I was not at Cozumel for a battle. I have the utmost respect for Eneko. We ran out of transition and I felt good so I just ran. I was surprised he didn’t pass me, but then I also was surprised at the run time I did. I thought I was running slower than that. I guess doing a few track sessions in Bermuda with my brother and a group for fun threw out my speed perspective. Sub 70sec 400’s might do that. But it was November, you are allowed to enjoy training and do things that don’t make as much sense after Kona. You can’t be so fixed on specific training all year long.
ST: We know Savana was in your arms right after you finished. What did she say?
Tyler: Savana actually doesn’t say too much. It think she just said "daddy!" Sometimes she also likes to say, "Daddy do swim swim swim, bike bike bike, run run run."
ST: What does this now mean for your race calendar in 2014 since you are likely qualified for Kona with 7,140 points?
Tyler: Having the pressure off to qualify now is definitely really nice but there is no need to change too much, 2013 was good to me. This year I did 3 back-to-back 70.3s to guarantee I got to Kona, but it worked out, I used them as race prep and training towards Kona.
Having pretty much already qualified it will make life easier as I have the Commonwealth Games end of July in Glasgow, so it with be more enjoyable not chasing points just before. It looks like I will do Ironman Nice in June, just to make sure I know what an Ironman feels like still, and Kona isn’t a shock to the system. Plus you hear so many good things about Ironman Nice.
ST: Talking about Kona, you had a very fine race there. Is that a fair statement?
Tyler: Ya, that would be spot on. I would have been disappointed to not be in the top ten, even though I knew there was that possibility. If I had hung on to 4th I would have been surprised and punching well above my weight, although I was the heaviest guy in the top 15 I see from the Bike/Run article on Slowtwitch.
I knew that this year I was concentrating on the main thing of training right, now I can watch my weight for 2014, be a little more and focus on diet, that old saying you must crawl before walk. I had to prove to myself and sponsors I could be top 10 first before aiming any higher. Saying that I know in 2014 a top 10 would still be a good result, a lot depends on how many other people have good or great races. If every guy had a great race on the start line, we would have 20 guys running across the finish line within 15 minutes of each other after racing hard at it for 8 or so hours. It would be amazing, but everyone is not going to have a great day when they want it. That is just sport.
ST: At what point did you feel that your day was going well?
Tyler: The swim turn-around at 2km. I was the most worried about my swim as I had backed off on the training the most on my swim in the last 5 weeks into the race. Basically after Vegas I did the minimum to get out front pack so I was unsure what to expect. The bike and run I knew I was going to be alright. I trained for everything I wanted to on the bike, and as for running I only missed my last long run, as I was fit, strong and going well, so I figured I had more to lose than gain from doing it. I was confident I had done the work on those two. I had done two full marathons plus a ½ marathon in Vegas 70.3 in the last 10weeks into Kona and plenty of specific bike rides. I felt as ready to race as I was going to be for 2013. In hindsight I might have missed a few km’s in weekly run volume due to Vegas & 2 marathons recovery time, plus a bit of semi speed work running, but you can’t improve everything all at once. It should come in time. I am very pleased with how things have progressed in 2013. I might be running slower than in past years, but my results have improved and it is a triathlon after all.
ST: During the bike segment the group in the front was massive and when it is so large it really hurts those riding further back as now some folks are still going uphill while those up front are already hammering the downhill. Were you surprised by the size of that group?
Tyler: No, that was more than normal since only having 55 guys on the start line, but less than last time I did Kona in 2010 when I think we had 85 guys line up. It is a more fair race with less on the start line and the chopping in on the bunch from someone riding halfway to the front or almost to the front is less. That is the rule that is pushed the most in Kona for the pro men.
I came out of the water and ran to my bike fast, rode hard the first 10km to get to the front. It might have caught up with me later, but it meant I didn’t have to deal with people cutting in as much. After 10km on the bike I was in 5 or 6th position.
Slowly over the first 80-90 kilometers I fell back to around 12-15th, which was a little farther back than I would have liked, but a few guys were passing and riding to the front and others were just moving up and slotting in. Not much you can do about that. I didn’t want to ride to the front and I didn’t want to risk a penalty by slotting in. So I got pushed back.
I got a penalty in 2010 when in the main group trying to hold my place. It’s not worth 4 minutes and I knew I could ride up when the race really started. Once or twice I left a large gap as the pack accelerated and I choose to let it open and close it when they slowed. You have to still think when you are riding in the group. Every action has a reaction.
ST: How difficult is it to get into a certain position and to stay there?
Tyler: Just before the bottom of Hawi hill I had to hit the gas to get to the front as too many people were starting to leave large gaps or drift backwards. That’s when I used a solid 5 minutes to get back up to the front. With that momentum I rode right up to 2nd just briefly and was eager to get things started as I could see the damage that was happening as I moved up. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite go with Luke and Sebastian at the top of Hawi hill, but that was maybe the price I paid for being relaxed and drifting back too far as I had a solid 5 minutes ride before we started the hill and things got heated up power wise.
ST: Sebastian Kienle joined your group rather quickly. Was that surprising?
Tyler: I was not so worried about Sebastian or Starky! I was not the guy in the race that was aiming to win. They are 2 extremely talented riders, I figured both would blow by everyone. Even when Luke went with Seb I thought he might pay on the run, but Luke proved stronger than Seb even on the bike that day. He knew his training powers and went with it in what was the right call.
ST: You rode a Cervelo P5/3 in Kona with the UCI legal fork and the cover on the Magura brake. Why that hybrid setup?
Tyler: I got the Cervelo P5/3 at Kona in 2012 when I was watching and there to train for IM Arizona. I had raced on it all year and rode well. So I was indifferent to change. But the break covers are an easy add-on to make it more aero so I just went with that.
Plus with only using Rolf Prima 60’s for my race wheels and a shallower fork, I thought if the cross winds pick up I will be laughing and get an extra advantage. It didn’t happen, but still put my mind at ease and a trick up my sleeve for the day Kona crosswind did kick in.
ST: You still were in 4th place as you came out of the Energy Lab but Timothy O’Donnell, James Cunnama and Faris Al-Sultan were not far behind, and Ivan Rana was flying a bit further back. Were you looking over your shoulder?
Tyler: No I knew they were coming, but with 10km to go I got a 2minute time check and thought easy. Boy was I wrong. Hahaha. With 2 miles left to run James came flying past and 10-15 seconds later Tim too. My wheels were falling off.
I just had nothing left and my legs were cramping a little the last few km’s before the pass, enough that I was nervous to throw down too much coke, perform, or a salt tablets in my stomach as I didn’t know if it was too much salt or not enough. I figured I could hold on just nursing it to the finish, but I was wrong. Lesson learnt. I will try to fix it when I still have a minute gap before the pass happens. Ironmans are a lot about learning and experience.
ST: When you came down Alii Drive towards the finish what went through your mind?
Tyler: So the last right hand turn is always joyful as it is all almost over, but I had Ivan Rana’s foot steps behind me and ringing in my ears. Just after the turn Ivan came beside me on my right and my parents and brother’s family were just ahead on the left holding a flag. It was a split second decision to stop and grab the flag and hug my family or sprint with Ivan and miss the flag and chance to celebrate. I sensed I was on the losing side of a sprint with Ivan and enjoyed the moment! Flag, hugs and celebration it was, which I couldn’t have been happier with for the day.
ST: How was it perceived in Bermuda?
Tyler: Everyone was over the moon and loved the photo of the Bermuda flag crossing the line. Well worth stopping for. It is amazing how happy you are when others enjoy your success too.
ST: Anything else we should know?
Tyler: All in good time my friend! Hopefully I’m not a one-year wonder. It was a fun year for me and I hope others can feel the same enjoyment and satisfaction from their triathlon races, after all it is sport, enjoy!