Triathlete Butterfield’s Juggling Act

January 11, 2012

Nikki Butterfield – the wife of top local triathlete Tyler Butterfield – won a Half Ironman competition in Syracuse last year and placed a respectable fourth in the HyVee 5i50 Championships — another US endurance event combining bicycling, swimming and running.

And her itinerary for 2012 is far more ambitious, with Mrs. Butterfield hoping to participate in up to half-a-dozen international competitions.

After an abrupt departure from the sport in 2005 because of burnout and injury, Mrs. Butterfield spent four years racing as a professional cyclist. She returned to the triathlon in 2009, saying she had “unfinished business” in the sport she wanted to attend to.

With Bermudian husband and fellow professional triathlete Tyler Butterfield now training to qualify for Bermuda’s 2012 London Olympic team, the recent mother talked with international triathlon website Slowtwitch this week about how she juggles racing, training, sponsor obligations and family [she and husband Tyler are pictured here with baby Savana Rose].

An excerpt from her chat with Slowtwitch appears below. For the full interview, click here.

ST: Good to chat with you.

Nikki: Thanks for having me.

ST: You really have been on a roll in terms of racing and your family.

Nikki: Thank you. I didn’t expect to be back racing so soon, and certainly not well for a long time. It helped Savana was a relatively easy baby, the only quirk she had was she didn’t like to sleep by herself. Once I brought her into bed with us when she was about 6 weeks old I suddenly felt rested and started to think about getting moving again.

ST: How old is Savana now?

Nikki: She was one year on December 22nd.

ST: How do you and Tyler manage training with that adorable bundle of joy needing attention too?

Nikki: It changes depending on who is doing what, where we are in the world, how much help we have, if any, and how Savana is going. When we’re in Boulder we have a fantastic nanny 3 days a week so we can ride together, she also helps around the house with laundry and light tidying which makes a huge difference. Sometimes, though, I daydream about having achieved enough athletically and having earned enough money to be able to be a stay-at-home Mom. I think I would love that!

ST: Can you even think back what it was like before Savana was here?

Nikki: For sure, but I don’t remember it being any less chaotic as I was always in school [I finished my MBA the month before Savana was born], and we didn’t have as stable of a base as we do now. I don’t feel any busier now than before, as I said previously the only hard part is leaving Sav.

ST: Looking back at 2011 we’d think you would be pleased with your racing?

Nikki: Of course! Last season was a ‘bonus’ for me. I planned to start to be serious in 2012. The funny thing is though before World Long Course [my last race for the season] I started to increase my training but I actually went worse… admittedly I was sick, but I felt more prepared than my other races. Maybe there is something to be said for just fitting it in what you can, when you have time, and not expecting anything. I’ll tell you what I think about this theory at the end of this season.

ST: That sounds like a plan, but let us go back to 2011. Anything stand out as a highlight?

Nikki: It was great to win in Syracuse, but I traveled with Savana and our nanny Aspen who I get along with really well, but it wasn’t the same as enjoying success with Tyler.

We do so much together, whenever one of us does well it is a shared success so it felt hollow to me. It was like “great I’ve won, are there any flights tonight so I can get home?”. I am looking forward to after the Games us being able to race together all the time.

I guess to answer your question HyVee had to be the highlight. I went in with the goal of 10th place — $10,000! — but Tyler kept saying 5th was a better goal. I just needed to believe in myself. In the end I didn’t think about the result, I just swam, biked and ran as fast as I could and ended up 4th. It was my biggest paycheck ever.

It was fun to ride well, especially with the crowds, but the best part was running with the contenders, girls I used to race when we were younger but I haven’t run against in more than 5 years. I didn’t know if I had it against them anymore. Obviously some beat me, but I got ahead of others, I felt in the game, in contention in one of the biggest races – that was a good feeling. My greatest fear throughout returning to racing was to be at the back looking like a joke of a professional athlete. Sometimes fear is the greatest motivator.

One of the best parts was seeing my Mother and Father-in-Law [veteran Bermuda runners Jim and Debbie Butterfield] afterwards. They were so excited to watch me come from behind on the bike. Jim thought my race was over after the swim so he just kept getting more and more excited over the day. It’s fun to surprise people some times.

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