The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon's reigning women's champion, Australia's Nikki Butterfield, has postponed her planned retirement to defend her title next month against what is expected to be the strongest female elite line-up outside the Ironman World Championship.
Having put her career on hold after her Abu Dhabi win to concentrate on having a second child, Butterfield has now teamed up with husband Tyler, the Bermudan Olympic triathlete who will make his UAE capital debut on March 2, to work round the clock in preparation for her title defence.
"One of the great things about keeping a detailed training diary and then doing well is I can now look back on what I was doing at a similar time and see where I am each week compared to last year, what I was doing, how I felt, my times, pace, heart rates etc," Butterfield said.
"Some things this year are identical like my treadmill sets, run loops, bike intervals and loops, but I have made some changes."
The Brisbane mother who crossed the finish line last year with daughter Savannah in her arms to rapturous applause after holding off late charges from Angela Neath, Caroline Steffen and Melissa Hauschildt (nee Rollison), who are all returning to challenge her.
"This year I'm trying to be more consistent in my training day-to-day, week-to-week and in my overall preparation," Butterfield said.
"Last year I quite frequently flogged myself, would have to take a few days easy or off, then flog myself again. Obviously it worked for Abu Dhabi, but by July I wanted to quit. This year I'm trying to be more progressive, we'll see how it affects my result."
The former professional cyclist proved her racing pedigree when she drew on her experience to clinch victory on the energy-sapping 200kms bike leg, which ultimately led to her taking top spot two-and-a-half minutes ahead of the chasing pack.
"The way the race panned out in 2012 and my edge over my competitors was simple, I used cycling tactics to work over the other girls on the bike," Butterfield said.
"I actually tried to just ride away thinking in a non-drafting race that would be enough but as everyone knows, even when you sit at the legal distance, it's easier for the person behind, so to just ride away you have to be a lot stronger.
"Also being known as a strong biker no one wanted to let me go. I didn't plan on attacking like that before the race and if you had asked me, I'd have said it was a crazy move, but in cycling you learn to take opportunities when they present themselves and at about 140km in the bike I started to form a plan based on what the other girls were doing.
"The best situation is to be able to think on your feet and be able to make quick decisions based on how the race is playing out."
The Butterfields, who live in the United States, will be training for the race in Australia.
"Tyler and I really like coming down to Australia to escape the Colorado winter. Whenever we are here we are basically on training camp and we are very focused so it makes sense to choose a big race after a big training block," she said.
Tyler, who finished fourth at the 2012 Ironman Arizona and is the reigning Pan American champion, represented Bermuda at his second Olympic Games in London, clocking the fastest bike split and placing 34th.
He is now going into the 2013 season with a long course focus. "Abu Dhabi is my season-opener and it is a huge race to open with, but I like the big races as they are what gets me out the door to train," said Tyler, who will join the 2012 Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee in the capital next month for the event.
"I'm very excited for 2013 and especially Abu Dhabi. A good result there means the year is a success right off the bat. Abu Dhabi is a one-day race with no points and no other reason than to show up and race as hard as you can.
"It is a priority of mine to have my best race possible. Hopefully it will be good enough to mix it at the pointy end of the race but we will see on the day."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE