Butterfield: why I dedicated marathon triumph to Don

  • Over the line: Tyler Butterfield finishes first on Sunday (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Just talking about fellow triathlete Tim Don gets Tyler Butterfield emotional.

It happened again on Sunday — Don’s 40th birthday — when Butterfield mentioned his name minutes after clinching victory in the Bermuda Marathon.

Don’s coach, Julie Dibens, is now also Butterfield’s coach in Boulder, Colorado, where he and Butterfield have formed a strong friendship.

Don, one of the world’s top triathletes, was struck by a car while out on a bike ride three days before the Ironman in Kona last year and admitted to hospital with a fractured vertebrae in his neck.

“He set the world record for Ironman, 7hr 40min 23sec [in Florianopolis, Brazil], and he is part of why I joined Julie,” Butterfield said.

“He’s a good friend. What he did at Ironman showed that she is a good coach and she has been really helpful the last two months.”

Don, British-born like Dibens, is the son of former Premier League referee Philip Don.

“Julie got third in Kona a few years back and I’ve known her for a while,” Butterfield said. “We used to train together and the first time I did Kona she placed third.

“She has switched to coaching now and coached Tim Don. He’s got a long road back, but we’re hoping he can make a full recovery and be a contender.

“I’m looking forward to him getting back healthy and fit so I can train with him, because I know he’ll really push me. He’s a really good friend.”

Butterfield dedicated his win to Don and Bermuda. Sunday marked Butterfield’s first time competing in the Bermuda Race Weekend in many years.

He still holds the senior boys record for the Front Street Mile, a time of 4min 27.30sec, set in 1999.

“I have to give thanks to my coach, a great coach, and he’s the reason I joined her,” Butterfield explained.

“After last year’s Kona, I struggled to train alone and that’s why I wanted to race in Bermuda a little bit more, mainly the camaraderie.”

Butterfield, who will also take part in the Butterfield & Vallis 5K on Sunday, will be the guest speaker at the Bermuda Triathlon Association awards dinner on Saturday night. The venue has been switched from the Loft at Flanagan’s to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

He will talk about his career as a triathlete, including Tyler’s early introduction to the sport in Bermuda.

Butterfield’s parents, Jim and Debbie, are both former runners while Jim was also a triathlete. Spencer, Tyler’s brother, is a local runner and a record-holder in the primary schools Front Street Mile. His time of 5:14.70 in that age group has stood since 1993.

“This is one of the international events that locals overseas can come back and show the rest of Bermuda how hard they are working overseas,” Tyler said of the Marathon Weekend.

“I’ve got a lot of things to be thankful for; it’s a privilege that I’ve been able to race this long. I wore my Tokio Millennium jersey today to say thank you to them, who have sponsored me for years.

“I’m not sure whether it is going to continue or not, but they’ve been a good sponsor of many young athletes coming up.

“Bermuda has a lot of talent and a lot to be thankful for. I’m pleased that I could have a good race.

“I was quite nervous. I could easily have run around the 2:40 mark or, if I had a good day, I figured I could run around 2:30.”

Butterfield is hoping his schedule will allow him to come back to watch the ITU World Triathlon Bermuda on April 28, in which Flora Duffy will compete on home soil.

“It depends; there is an ironman the same day, Ironman Texas, and I was third there last year,” he said. “I’d rather come down here, but I’ll have to speak to my coach.

“That’s what is good about having a coach; she looks out for my best interests. There are things I want to do and things I should do. I want to be here to watch it, but will have to wait and see after Commonwealth Games.

“I remember when I was a 13, 14 year old kid and they had the World Cup, now the WTS, and that’s when I met Chris McCormack who went on to become a world champion like Flora,” Butterfield recalls. “I went and stayed with him in Australia.

“With these events where the pros come down, often a young athlete will get to know a pro, follow them and meet them at another race around the world. It’s a stepping stone for young athletes to move overseas.”

It took Butterfield about half an hour to move about 15 yards from the finish line on Sunday, the Bermudian stopping and chatting with fans and fellow athletes, including Steven Petty, the president of the Bermuda Triathlon Association who have invited him to speak this weekend.

“In the end it’s just sport, and that’s why everyone likes sports because it breaks down barriers,” Butterfield said. “In the end, we’re all out here to have fun, smile and do our best whether it’s a half, full marathon or 10K.

“If I had a bad race and went three hours I would have still enjoyed being out there, running around Bermuda. I’m thankful, the fact that I can go to Commonwealth Games in triathlon and have been to Olympics. It’s something I might not have had the chance to do if I was from a different country.”