Swim, Bike, Run, Eat! | Colchester Triathlon Serves Up a Winner

When I think of the Colchester Triathlon, three things stick out: One, the swim is an absolutely beautiful half-mile circle in Malletts Bay; two, Colchester is the only tri I have ever seen that has transitions in two separate locations―at Bayside Park and down the street at Malletts Bay School; and three, when I think of Colchester, I think cream cheese.

Cream cheese? Of all the facets of the race, cream cheese stands out?

That’s right.

I participated in my first Colchester Triathlon when I was 12 years old, and handing out bagels and sodas at the refreshment table were Kathy Baumann and Judy Robinson. I competed at Colchester last year in the 40—44-year-old age group, and Baumann and Robinson were still there. The table has everything a post-race food table ought to have: juice, soda, fruit, yogurt, and bagels. And, straight from Baumann’s garden and kitchen, homemade herb and vegetable cream cheese.

“It’s not really homemade,” says Baumann, who uses store-bought cream cheese that she thins by adding milk and then whips. And then―and this is where the real magic occurs―she adds any combination of garlic, onion, basil, oregano, parsley, and salt. “One year, I made strawberry cream cheese,” she says. “And sometimes, if I’m really ahead of schedule, I’ll add bits of carrots.” The final result is a scrumptious topping for a bagel―way beyond what you find at most post–endurance race refreshment tables.

The idea to hold a triathlon in Malletts Bay first took root more than thirty years ago after a group of Colchester residents volunteered at the old Burlington Triathlon. Race founder Leigh Mallory blurted out, “We could do this!”

Dick Pecor, who co-directs the Colchester Triathlon with Mallory, laughs. “That’s Leigh,” he says. “Always saying something without thinking.” The following year, they organized the first Colchester Triathlon. This year’s race will be the 29th running, and many of the same volunteers still pitch in. “We’re all friends in a common endeavor,” says Pecor. “We’ve been in it for so long.”

If any race event is going to have an extra special food table, it’s the Colchester Triathlon. “The triathlon has become an important tradition in our town,” says Pecor. Therefore, there’s always a festive atmosphere at the finish. Much of the activity centers around the food, where Robinson and Baumann slice tomatoes and onions to go with the bagels and Baumann’s jazzed-up cream cheese.

From a nutritional standpoint, a refreshment table is good for stocking up on proteins and carbohydrates to rebuild muscles and replace lost fluids. But it does something even more when the general feeling surrounding that food is as festive and caring as the post-race mood at Colchester. “You can’t do events like this without people like Kathy and Judy,” says Colchester’s assistant recreation director Derek Mitchell.

In fact, Mitchell has been so moved by the enthusiasm surrounding the Colchester Triathlon that he has enlisted many of the race organizers to help him put together Colchester’s first adventure race―known as Muck It Up―on Saturday, Sept. 15. Meanwhile, this year’s Colchester Triathlon will be held on Sunday, July 29.

In the week leading up to the 29th, Baumann will make her rounds, do her shopping, and have all the food on ice in coolers the morning of the race so that it’s ready when the athletes cross the finish. In the past―particularly in the early years―making arrangements was a serious time commitment, but now Colchester businesses like Mazza’s General Store, the Bagel Market, and even Costco know to expect her calls. “The local shops have always been supportive,” she says. The triathlon is also special for Baumann because it has become a family affair. “My daughter and granddaughter are always there to help,” she says. “And my sister sometimes comes out from Toronto.”

Baumann insists that she takes away as much as she gives. “It doesn’t take a whole lot of time for the pleasure it gives me,” she says.

For the athletes she feeds at Colchester, her efforts go a long, long way.

Mark Aiken

Mark Aiken is a ski instructor at Stowe and a freelance writer. He is a recreational marathoner and triathlete.