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Whether it’s giant cookies, artisanal bread or Tour de France-themed cupcakes, these triathlete bakers are delivering tempting pastries in between workouts.
St. Louis, Companionstl.com
Josh Allen, the owner of Companion Bakery, raced triathlon in the early ’90s—he did Kona back in the Dave Scott and Mark Allen days—before opening his storefront in 1993 at the age of 24. His pretzel croissants made the “Today” show last winter, and Companion is often voted to the top of national best bread lists. His shop offers cookies of all shapes, more than 30 types of sandwiches, and breakfast items like oatmeal, granola and baked eggs. “Triathlon training has been a huge benefit for my life as an entrepreneur,” Allen says. “The daily grind of yards and mileage prepared me for the daily grind of not only baking, but also everything else that pops up in running a small business. I believe that the only way out is through. Triathlon always reminded me that there are no shortcuts.” Try his granola bar recipe at Triathlete.com/companiongranolabar.
New York City, Levainbakery.com
While training for the now-extinct Martha’s Vineyard Ironman in 1994, Connie McDonald and Pam Weekes were unsatisfied by the minimal options to refuel after long training hours, and started dreaming of leaving their banking and fashion jobs to open a bakery. Shortly after, they took the plunge and opened New York City’s über-popular Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side. Their famous hefty scone-sized chocolate chip walnut cookies and other baked goods draw around-the-block lines.
“It took a lot of patience, hard work, sacrifice and believing that what you’re doing is really good—and not giving up,” McDonald says.
Nowadays the former competitive swimmers stay in shape with the Columbia University Masters program a couple times a week, and through yoga and spinning classes, but Ironmans have been cut out in lieu of 85-hour work weeks.
“We both really loved racing and we wanted to do another Ironman for our 50th birthdays,” Weekes says. “It takes a lot of the same qualities, that’s for sure. There have been times when we’ve been at the end of long days and said, ‘Oh this is like a triathlon of life right now.’”
CupCapes of Falmouth
Falmouth, Mass., Cupcapesfalmouth.com
At her longtime corporate finance job, Tammy Gibbons inadvertently found her true calling when she saw how happily her coworkers reacted to the baked goods she would bring into the office. She quit her job, found the perfect space on Main Street in the charming Cape Cod town of Falmouth, and opened shop in 2008. CupCapes is not just any cupcake destination—Gibbons can take any flavor idea and make it her own: She does a Falmouth Rocky Road for the corresponding running race in town; she featured a “Breaking Bad” cupcake topped with blue crystals; during Kona she does an Ironman Coffee Cake; and for the Tour de France she decorates themed jersey cupcakes, which she will give away if you can name the leader that day.
Gibbons raced her first triathlon in 2011, with an athletic background that was primarily competitive figure skating. “The CapeCod Marathon finishes right in front of the store, and I saw the most inspiring people finishing the marathon and it brought me to tears,” Gibbons says. “I thought, ‘Why am I not doing that?’ As long as I have a choice, I should do something that challenges me.” Gibbons also did her first marathon in Boston this year, and she’s tackling her first iron-distance triathlon at the Beach2Battleship in North Carolina in October.
The Cookie Project
In early May of 2013, triathlete Jen Anderson was out riding on the Ironman Wisconsin bike course and encountered a driver who patiently waited to pass her group going uphill until it was safe. Because this friendly gesture isn’t the norm in most places, it prompted her to say to her training partners, “I wish I could do something nice for them, like bake them cookies or something.”
That idea morphed into The Cookie Project. Anderson recruited more than 60 volunteers to bake and deliver 2,142 cookies and a thank-you note to the 357 homes on the Wisconsin course. “I had no idea of the number of houses, how long it would take, or how many cookies I needed,” Anderson says. “I just knew that it was important to say thank you to all the drivers that are kind and considerate while all the athletes are training on those roads.”
Dave Deschenes, the executive director of the Ironman Foundation, took notice and—with the help of Anderson and the Ironman Foundation Newton Running Triathlon Team—re-created the Project in Lake Placid last July. Momentum continued into Boulder, Colo., this June, where local triathlon retailers and pro athletes like Mirinda Carfrae got on board to help spread the word, resulting in 5,976 cookies hand-delivered to 996 homes on the Ironman Boulder course.
“The relationship between cyclists and drivers is a very angry and divided one, but it doesn’t have to be,” Anderson says. “The Cookie Project is successful in making an impact because it is thanking and rewarding good behavior from drivers, and a reminder to cyclists to acknowledge the impact they can have on traffic patterns and communities.” Thecookieproject.org