Tyler shows glimpses of things to come at the Ironman World Championships

Tyler Butterfield

Tyler was 28th in the Ironman World Championships with an 8:46:16 overall time on Saturday, after an injured preparation and a drafting penalty during the bike leg, a reflection of his tenacity and talent for long-distance events.

His injury was a ‘stress reaction’ in his right tibia which meant only two proper run sessions in the last five weeks leading into the race, at numerous points in the weeks leading in he was not even sure if he was going to be physically capable of finishing the event.

The drafting penalty was given at halfway into the bike-leg, resulting in his loss of contact with the main group, effectively meaning an ten minute slower bike leg than if he wasn’t penalized.

Tyler had a great swim coming out in 52.17, leading the 2nd group just one minute off the large group of lead contenders. By the end of the first 10 mile out-and-back on the bike Tyler had bridged the gap across to the main bunch which was then 30-strong including the eventual winner Chris McCormack, and the defending champion Craig Alexander.

Once out onto the Queen K Highway (which the remaining 100 miles of the bike leg was on) the group settled into a rhythm, all balancing precariously on the limits of the 10 meter drafting rule. Unfortunately for Tyler, he was singled out (along with a few other athletes) to serve a four minute penalty, which also meant riding home solo.

Although drafting is not allowed in long-course events, for the professionals it is ‘part of the game’ to make sure you are in the main group, as even sitting 10 meters back from the next competitor (following the rules) it is significantly easier than facing the wind alone. The trick is to be as close as possible to get the easiest ride, without breaking the rules and being penalized. Tyler is pragmatic about his penalty- next time he will make sure he is 12 meters+ so there is no question.

Tyler rode a 4:50:25 for the bike (including his penalty).

Out onto the  marathon Tyler felt great through the first ten miles running between 6.00-6.20 minute miles putting him on pace to run a 2.46-2.48 marathon, but by the top of Palani Hill (11 miles into the run) things started to fall apart so to speak, and he dropped off his pace eventually running 2:59:19, a reflection of his injury-interrupted preparation.

In World Championships, you simply cannot afford to miss a months worth of run training in the lead-up.

Tyler is certainly not disappointed, just not super-happy either. It was great for him to see that he is already good enough (or very close) to swimming and biking with the best in the world, after just one year of Ironman training, and at the relatively young age of twenty-seven (most of the Ironman main contenders are in their mid–thirties).

Add to that that is his run leg is his strongest and with an uninjured preparation it is quite likely he will be capable of running under 2.50 for the marathon, which would put him in a position to be very successful at the Ironman distance in years to come.

It was very exciting for Tyler to  experience the race and to see his good friend Chris McCormack win in a time of  8:10:37, consisting of a 51:36 swim, a 4:31:50 bike, and a 2:43:31 run time.

It was a tactical race with Craig Alexander, the defending champion and a training partner of Tyler’s in Boulder, giving up a deficit on the bike that he could not recover on the run, even with a 2.41 marathon.

Tyler was amazed how the race unfolded, and to be able to see from within the race as the strategies played out, he feels it was an invaluable experience.

Overall, Tyler has come away from the event with many lessons learnt, both in his preparation and for the race itself, and is motivated for the years to come.

Tyler will now take a week to have a short break with his family in Kona, before moving on to Maui for the X-Terra World Championships in two weeks. This event is less of a focus for Tyler (he has ridden his mountain bike only a handful of times) but should be fun.

On the race calendar after the X-Terra World Championships at this point is Cozumel Ironman on the  28th of November. With the new World Triathlon Corporation rules that have just come into effect he will have to earn sufficient points  as opposed to a one-off qualification performance to compete here in Hawaii again next year. He is hoping to do well in Cozumel to get some points on the board early so he can concentrate on the Olympic qualifying procedure (shorter-distance events) and not think about Ironman qualification or training again until late-2011. Whether his shin injury will hold up in the coming weeks allowing him to compete in Cozumel as planned remains to be seen.

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