Topeka Tinman 

I was running down the final street to the finish in Utah this May. Although my head was pounding from the heat and I was ready to finish, I still couldn’t believe I was. I looked around in disbelief, smiling. The day had come and gone so quickly in such stark contrast from an Ironman. Just as I began to embrace the “suck” it was over and I was on to the next portion of the race. It was a nice change of pace.

Immediately I was overjoyed to finish. I felt as though I was smart and pieced together a solid race while nailing my nutrition in the heat (something I have struggled with). However, while I was overjoyed, I simultaneously felt as though I could’ve given more. While this is not necessarily the immediate feeling you want to have at a finish line, I was not disappointed. Instead, tears welled in my eyes as I began to believe in myself for the first time since pursuing this new challenge.

It would likely surprise many to know I fight my fair share of negative self talk as I am outwardly an overwhelmingly positive force. In the process of shifting to shorter/70.3 distance racing, my negative self talk told me I probably wouldn’t be any good at it. Why? I have no idea as I am a sprinter through and through. I figured I would give it a shot for a year and if I couldn’t hang, then I’d go back to doing whatever I wanted to do. Maybe go back to racing fulls or try my hand at ultra running as that is something I’ve always wanted (and want) to do.

St George was a pivotal moment for me as I realized I enjoyed racing this distance and that I wanted to keep improving at it. Fast forward a month after St George, I was itching to give the distance another go. Steve and I had just arrived home from our crazy 47 hours in Boulder where we rode our bikes through the mountains Saturday and volunteered at the Ironman on Sunday. We drove all night getting in around 4:30 AM Monday morning, slept for an hour, then got up for school and work. It was quite the whirlwind and while exhausting, we both agreed it was a weekend well spent. The next two days we attempted to regain sleep and recover with early bed times and lower intensity workouts.

Riding up to Estes while we were in Boulder

It was Tuesday. The stress of the weekend was fading and I began looking at race options close to home for Steve and I as we had nothing on our schedule until August. Topeka Tin Man had been in the back of my mind, but I didn’t realize the weekend was already upon us. With the race only 4 days away, I mulled over the idea weighing the pros and cons. Eventually, I decided that I have gone into plenty of Ironman training weekends far more fatigued than I was at that point and that it would be a good test of fortitude as well as a great opportunity to play around with my efforts before bigger races later in the season. So… I signed myself up for the 70.3 and Steve up for the Olympic.

Steve at Masters Thursday morning

Race morning

We woke up at 3:30 to collect our things before driving to Topeka. It was storming and had been all night. We followed the narrow country roads towards the race. There were no street lights and the rain made it difficult to see, at times. Every now and then the road ahead was illuminated by the lightening which was equal part cool and unsettling as we were both hoping to race in a few short hours.

Luckily, the storm moved on as we made our way into Topeka and we were hopeful again that the race would happen. There were a few delays in starting as the speakers had been shorted out by the rain and the storm had kicked up the current in the lake we were to swim in. The race directors rerouted the swim course and attempted to explain the new route to everyone without a microphone. I felt for them as those changes are difficult to roll with in putting on an event.

Steve warming up

Eventually we were off. The new swim course was a 2 loop for the 70.3. I do think it was fairly long.. I didn’t record it on watch but I wish I would’ve. Although I will say, I did not mind getting out and running along the beach briefly between loops as I typically welcome any break in swimming.

Total time: 33:02

Nutrition: 1 pre race double espresso Clif jel :)- (100mg caffeine!)


In the first 10 minutes of the bike I found myself largely regretting the commitment I made to exercising for 5 hours. As it turns out biking 100+ mi through the mountains, spectating a race and driving all night we’re not great race prep for my legs in the week leading up. SO WEIRD. Anyway they felt heavy and bad and I actually didn’t care all that much, I just took mental note that yes this was indeed probably a bad decision and kept on.

Oh ya, food. Distracted by my own thoughts, I forgot I should’ve been eating something by then so I took in a few shot blocks and water. I try to front load my calories towards the first half of the bike. The course was out and back. With very few people racing as well as working the event, I did not see much of anyone along the course. A woman (who I later became friends with) passed me around mile 30, but other than that, I rode totally alone for the majority of 56 miles.

The course was one long stretch of rollers (for anyone who is misinformed the Midwest is not flat). Around mile 35 I was curious, so I flipped over to my elevation profile on my garmin. We had climbed almost 2,000 feet. And here I thought I had picked something much easier than St George.. It actually felt much harder, in ways, as we fought a nasty headwind left over from the storm the entire way out. It was the kind that somehow never quite turned into a tailwind. Between that, the isolated course and the chipseal roads, I was digging hard into my gumption as it was difficult to keep my head in the game. I ended up flipping my garmin screen so all I saw was total time. 

I was reminded that I was indeed racing as I approached the turn around. The one girl who had passed me earlier was now coming back towards me. She was smiling and egging me on to come get her and it reminded me why I love racing in the Midwest. Everyone is friendly.

Although the idea of going after her sounded enticing, I had planned to stick to my zones and use this as a training race so I did not change my effort. At the turn around, I was trying to calculate how much water and how many calories I had taken in vs at st george. I realized I had a few more bottles (as there were more aid stations) in St. George and I had part of a bar (forgot to pack one for Topeka). So…Not enough. Oh well. I rolled into T2 in just under 3 hours. Where this is much slower than my time in St George I believe the effort was actually more similar than I planned for it to be. I chugged some clif mix in transition and took in my first of many rounds of base salt.

Total time: 2:57:13

Nutrition: 3 bottles: 2 water,  1 concentrate-base salt, 3 scoops clif hydration mix. 2 jels. 2 packs of shot blocks.

Elevation gain: 2,867ft 

Off the bike and onto the run. I was ready for this as I knew the run was where I could’ve improved at St George. With strong advice to not go “all in” at this race, I kept things controlled. At the same time though, I wanted to know I could get my legs turning over faster than I had before in a 70.3 so I was riding a fine line between pushing myself a bit but not too much.

The run was a single out and back that we ran twice and it was so. hot. I remember saying under my breath “You’ve got to be kidding me” as I turned the first corner out of transition as I could not believe out of all days to run this race.. we chose the hottest yet. 99 degrees with 100% humidity. Unless you have lived through a summer in the Midwest, you may not be able to fathom this kind of heat but I assure you- nothing is worse than running hard on days like that. They actually canceled the 100 mile race that morning as they were fearful of the heat …and for good reason.

Temp: 99

Humidity: 100%

Wind gusts: 32 mph 

I anticipated going out a little fast as I wanted to get my legs turning over before settling into a good pace. I eventually found where my effort was meant to be and held it fairly steady through the entire run. I was about 3 minutes back coming off of the bike from the girl ahead of me. Approaching the turn around for the first time, I realized I had put some time into her without totally intending to.

It wasn’t that I decided to catch her on the second loop, but I did decide that if I made it my goal, my run may stay more consistent as I was starting to feel my tempo slow in the heat. I focused on the sound of my feet hitting the ground and worked to cool myself down as much as possible at each aid station. There was an aid station halfway through the loop where you could dip your hat in ice water and I made sure to do this each time I passed.

At the turn around, I knew I was about a minute 15 back. It was a fun game, working to catch her, as we encouraged one another the whole time. In the end, she had me by about 55 seconds. I finished 2nd overall female, 4th overall finisher. (It wasn’t a large race but it’s still fun to know you chick a bunch of boys 😜)

Run Total Time: 1:39:40

Nutrition: 2 cups per aid station. One down my suit and one down the hatch. 3 jels. 1 8oz flask of clif and base salt concentrate

Elevation gain: 725 ft

Total race time 5:13:55

It was a great training day for me. I felt like I “stepped up” when my body was tired. I felt like I worked through mental battles resulting from some of the less than ideal conditions. I was happy to know that I could, in fact, run faster off of the bike than I did in St. George. Moving into prep for Boulder 70.3, I am happy to have this under my belt and will continue to work at becoming more efficient at this distance. I think it would be fun to break 5 eventually… I guess it is always good to have goals. And always good to see this guy at the finish 🙂

 (He destroying the Olympic and finished about 3 hours before me)

To the many Trials (and errors!) of Life Love and Fitness that make the journey worth while. Thank you to my sponsors, family, friends and all of those who relentlessly support me in all I do.

Xo Rachael





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