“The Making of a Pro” with Tyler Butterfield

Tyler Butterfield is next up on this version of “The Making of a Pro”. Currently 32 years old, he has been in the triathlon scene longer than anyone I have ever personally known. Since age 7, to be exact, is when he competed in his first Ironkid Tri. Coming from a family of endurance athletes and being engulfed in the sport for so long, he has more experience and more races under his belt than most other triathletes. This triathlete, originating from Bermuda and currently residing in Boulder CO, has a great story and I am proud to be sharing it with you!

Tyler was born from a couple of super athletes. His mom a runner who raced in the first women’s US Olympic Marathon trials finishing in 2:38 and placed 4th in the ’85 Boston Marathon. His father, a rower in high school and college, competed in the Munich ’72 Olympics in the single scull. Later his dad took up cycling and running and competed in the Commonweatlh Games for the marathon. His parents later started the Bermuda Triathlon Association and his dad competed in Kona in October of ’81 finishing 7th. Tyler said his older brother was/is just a freak at sports, and broke most of the running records in school, most of which still stand today. “I always tried to beat his records and loved the challenge, even if I did win my races as a youngster, I would fall short of my brother’s record times, set 2 years before me”. Tyler said that bragging rights at home always kept the competition going between the two brothers. Ever since Tyler can remember, he was doing running races. He dabbled a bit as a midfielder in soccer for a junior club but didn’t like the pressure if he missed a cross, pass, shot or let a ball pass. Tyler said “It was great to do a team sport growing up but I wasn’t cut out for it and never excelled at it either. I think we tend to go into things that come more naturally.” It’s great to see such a fast family. Having that sibling rivalry is something that can create some of the fastest, strongest or most talented athletes. It seems that it was Tyler’s “will” to compete rather than a “force” to compete is a reason for his success.

Tyler loved to push himself. “I loved racing the older and better guys in Bermuda as a kid. I really loved cycling growing up and even worked in a bike shop on Saturdays and summer holiday.” Ty said that when he was younger, he never wanted to be a professional triathlete, he just really loved the sport. When watching the Winter Olympics at a very young age, he remembers going outside and “slaloming” down the hills, doing turns as he runs down. But from Bermuda, skiing was never going to be his sport. When he became a teenager, he said he wanted to be a professional cyclist. After watching many European classic cycling races, he would go out in the rain, put his hat under his helmet and ride like he was in the race. “But I knew a little kid from Bermuda wasn’t likely going to become a European pro cyclist”, he said. It’s cool seeing Tyler trying many things when he was young and not just getting sucked into one sport from the get-go.

It wasn’t until he was 13-14 years old that he really got excited about triathlon. During the ITU World Cups Bermuda held in ’90 his parents hosted some athletes for the race. One of the Australian guys was so full of life and super fun. Tyler and this pro (Macca) rode, ran and chatted about everything from traveling, racing, equipment and much more. They just had a great time laughing and joking around all the time. Tyler said “I thought this is awesome. I remember thinking, if I can do this for a living, it would be amazing!” Macca came back and stayed again and Tyler was like a kid in a candy shop asking questions all the time. One thing that sunk in for Tyler was that he was told that in Australia, triathlon is a bigger sport than most places and if you want to make it, you have to do a year or two down-under. Entries to local races are cheap and you can race current or ex world champions or even world number ones. Hearing that bit of info planted the seed in Tyler’s head.

After high school, Ty convinced his parents to repeat his senior year in Australia since that was the only way they would allow him to go that far away. Since he didn’t know anyone in Australia, another year in school was a good way to meet people as well. He wanted to apply to US colleges using his good grades from Bermuda but wanted that year-long stint of training and racing in Australia beforehand. After his 13th year, Tyler joined a triathlon squad and moved in with Brad Kahlefeldt for the summer. Tyler said “It was great! It was the hardest training I’d ever done, but it was so much fun. Just training and hanging out and more training.” After that summer, Tyler said “it was time to head back to the Northern Hemisphere”. There were plenty of races up there and Tyler and Brad teamed up to train and race together. Previously in Australia, Tyler had met a pretty cool girl that also happened to race tri’s as a U23 athlete. They had similar race plans so they managed to travel to the same places throughout the US summer. Tyler was able to see this cool Aussie girl, Nikki, quite a bit over that summer before heading back to the Gold Coast for the Australian Summer.

“Now some 13 years later, I still love it!” says Tyler. Throughout his years, Tyler has had some amazing success including 2 Olympics, 3 Commonwealth games and 3 Pan American Games (2 times for triathlon and once for cycling). Tyler placed 3rd at Jr ITU Worlds and raced for a top French amateur cycling team with U23 Cycling World Champs and U23 Parix Roubaix. These are just a few of Tyler’s successes as I know he made the jump to long course and has excelled greatly at that with many gold and podium finishes. After marrying his wife Nikki, who also has quite a successful cycling and triathlon history, in 2008, they now call Boulder CO home along with their two children Savana (4) and Walker (1).

Throughout the years, Tyler has had the pleasure to work with some great companies. Tyler says “It is a hard and an expensive sport. They all help in making it possible to race around the world in the biggest races.” Tyler goes on saying that he loves how great they are on a personal level. Whether he has a good or bad race over his career, he promises to represent them well on and off the course. Tyler also likes representing his friend’s brands as well. A few of these sponsors that Tyler wants to mention are the Bermuda Olympic Association, Bermuda Triathlon Association and his family for their support from an early age. Tyler has had a relationship with Tokio Millennium Reinsurance for 7 years now and has been on board with Cervelo since 2012. A special shout-out goes to Zerod triathlon clothing, Ekio helmets and sunglasses, Mavic wheels and cycling gear and Zone3 wetsuits.

I want to close with some good words of wisdom that Tyler had told me. I asked him for a simple tidbit of advice for upcoming triathletes and he said “Follow your dream and have fun or make it as fun as possible. And learn to like a challenge and learn to like the hard work and hard days. Nothing is ever easy, that is worth it.” Tyler also said “Life is short, make the most and enjoy it.” When I asked him what was or what are your favorite races he said “Too many to pick one, I love them all, it is the journey not the destination or result. Every race is unique for its own reason.”

It was fun to write this bio on Tyler Butterfield. I have only known Tyler as this cool, super nice and fast guy sharing a lane at the pool, but it’s great to get some insight on where he came from. I like seeing how his inner competitive drive that he had from a young age is still propelling him today.

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