*Photo by Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
*Photo by Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

Tyler Butterfield embraced the desert heat as he prepared to kick his season off at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.

Bermuda’s  31-year-old Ironman finished third in last year’s event and will start the 3km swim, 200km bike and 20km race at 11:40pm tonight, Bermuda time.

While UAE is coming to the end of its cool season, the athletes are still expected to cross the finish line in temperatures over 80° F.

But Butterfield, who finished seventh at the iconic Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawai’i in 2013, says his upbringing on The Rock means conditions should actually be to his liking.

He told the Bermuda Sun: “I grew up in Bermuda and as everyone knows from May to December we have a lot of humidity. 

“I’ve always done well in the heat and I think growing up in Bermuda is the reason for that.Last year I trained for Abu Dhabi in Australia — I’ve stayed in Colorado this year so it’ll be different.

“You definitely have to try to train for the heat. It’s always borderline wetsuit and if it is wetsuit, it’s usually pretty hot.”

After downtime over Christmas, which included the birth of his second child, Butterfield’s preparations have been affected by a couple of bouts of illness.

It means he is realistic about setting his sights too high but no less motivated to reach the podium once again.

He said: “I am more interested in how the race goes. My preparation has not been perfect but I am so passionate about triathlon I am almost more intrigued to see how things are going to pan out. 

“If I can get back on the podium, I will be very excited.”

The elite long-distance field in the UAE capital contains some imposing names. 

Frederick Van Lierde, who won in Kona and Abu Dhabi last year, is back for more, while South African James Cunnama, who was fourth in Hawai’i, will also be at the start line.

For Butterfield, he gets a kick out of striking a blow for the small countries — and in particular his home island. “It’s fun being from a little country like Bermuda and going up against the big countries,” he said. “I like it. I see it as an opportunity not a pressure — the only pressure is what you put on yourself as an athlete.”

Butterfield, pictured left at a promo shoot in the city, adds that competing in Abu Dhabi also gives him valuable information on how to stage a world-class triathlon event, something he’d like to do in Bermuda when his top-class career comes to an end.

“It’s a really great race — the money comes from the oil but they have invested it into the country and into the sporting events and I find that really interesting.

“I look at how an event like that could help Bermuda — and how it could attract people to Bermuda too. Ten years from now how can I put on a big race in Bermuda? being in Abu Dhabi also helps my future career.”