Martinique Wrap Up

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What a fantastic surprise this Martinique trip was.

To begin I must tell you why I am here. I have some athletes I coach who live here. Pretty simple huh? The athletes are interested in organizing a very fine triathlon training camp on the island in March 2011 and asked me to help them with it and to come down to recon the areas and resources of the island. I didn’t know very much about Martinique and through some research I learned that it is a French island of about 425 square miles. This means everything is French from the laws to the roads to the native tongue. I don’t speak a lick of French. The island does not have a Bahamian or Caribbean vibe to it at all. It is just like being in France with the exception that 80% of the population is black. This includes the ancestors of my very generous athletes and homestays. Gregory runs his families old and distinguished rum factory right down the road from his house in a town called Carbet which is about 30K from the capital named Fort de France. It turns out Martinique has some of the finest rums in the world due to the incredible nature of the climate. It is perfect for raising the sugar cane crop. Gregory is also a passionate triathlete and family man so with a full time rum business as well as the crazy sport which he trains with his wife Karine and also three children he is a very busy man. Even though I abstain 100% from drinking I took a keen outside interest in the rum making business. Greg took me around his factory and I was very impressed with the environmentally friendly and sustainable approach he takes with his factory. Not only is the entire factory set up for recycling but nothing goes to waste. The sugar cane used for the rum is also used to make water to create steam for the machines and the used cane is then turned into fertilizer for the rest of the crop. His business model is not like a Bacardi but very low production numbers with high quality. The Neisson Rum company makes a dark and light version as well they sell wine and champagne. I got to smell the rum in the select oak barrels of which they age as well as tour the crushing machine which has been used since the 1800’s. Already Gregory is setting up the select rums and party details for the companies 80th birthday which is in two years. But on to triathlon.

The island is very mountainous and Carbet is at the very North of the island. It is a small town and Gregory’s house is situated on the beach which has dark colored sand due to a volcano on the island. The climate is always warm with the winter months being the best for tourism. I guess the trip began very well as I met Miss Martinique, Stephanie Colosse, on the plane and we hit it off well. But I digress. Gregory and I spent much time together riding on the undulating roads. There are some very flat beautiful sea level roads but also some very long climbs. There are a few races on the island as well including a half Ironman which Laurent Jalabert has raced in. I also was fortunate to have some fantastic meals including Barracuda. This fish is not eaten in the US due to high levels of poisoning but as I was explained this is from the warm waters and the Barracuda in Martinique does not have this problem. I was given a platter of grilled fish including snapper, dolphin, marlin and the most flavorful was barracuda. Oh well, C’est la vie. I was also introduced to some great peppers for the foods and these small but very flavorful peppers offered quite a punch. It was a stellar combination of flavor and heat. The town of Carbet has a perfect 50 meter pool which we will use for the camp and which was a great temperature. We hope to have the pool filled with many swimmers as it will be a waste not to use it.

During one road trip Gregory and I visited the quiet and picturesque Saline Beach. This beach is on the Southern end of the island. We will use this beach for one of the days of the camp as it has smooth roads with flat terrain and also some nice medium length climbs. Next to the beach is a dirt road about 5K long to be used for running. The day we train at Saline Beach we will complete a full triathlon but the athletes will be rewarded with a great meal at Le Paradis where Gregory and I ate some very fine grilled Spiny Lobster, Potato Souffle and the very best warm Baguettes you ever had.
We also spent one morning with the very friendly folks of the local triathlon club. The six of us set out early in the morning for a 40K bike to Prechur and back with a healthy climb of about 5K towards the end. After the spirited ride we took off for one loop of 5K from the local Olympic Distance race which is held there. One of the club members, Valerian, has raced Ironman Hawaii a couple times and towards the end of the run decided we should all ‘pick it up’. Needless to say he was the fastest and it led to great camaraderie. After this competitive brick session we transitioned to suits for a swim at sea. This swim was completed under the watchful eye of local swim expert Christian Morin. Christian, in his 60’s now, was French national champion who is now a famous French swim coach. Now this character is seen enjoying a few good beers and some smokes as he motivates us to do more swimming in the sea and then some sprints. Christian is passionate for swimming and even though we don’t speak the same language we had some well translated discussions on swim technique and workout design. Everything he said was with a brilliant smile and he will be a swimmer till he dies.
One of the many highlights of the trip was a visit to the wine cellar of the Niesson house. This climate controlled enclave was nestled towards the front end of the house and filled with many impressive wines. Well any wine seems impressive to me as I don’t know anything about them. But there were some beautiful hand decorated bottles from Picasso and Dali as well as some very old wines from France’s Chateau Leoville Las Cases in 1945. But, I was most impressed by the custom made Louis Vuitton Trunk which was made for the distilleries 75th birthday. The trunk had a beautiful red leather finish inside with perfectly measured compartments for all the custom tools of rum tasting. The attention to detail was outstanding and the quality, well, what else would you expect from Louis Vuitton. It was very special.
On the last day we visited the hotel where the triathletes will be staying for the camp. It is a perfect hotel for our needs. It is very clean with rooms of all sizes. The hotel itself sits on a pristine beach and is 500 meters from both aquatic center and the track. All the athletes will be able to eat breakfast and dinner as well at the hotel included in the camp price. The hotel will be our starting point for each days training as it is in a central location. But the best part is that it is next door to a great little bakery where you can pick up fresh warm pastries, croissants and baguettes each day. Now only if they offered them in a Gluten Free version. After visiting the hotel we had some time off and took a trip to the south of the island to go out on one of Gregory’s close friends, Thomas’, boat. What a great little trip we took and we all took turns wakeboarding in the warm, calm waters of a very cool bay. Thomas and Gregory were kings of the wakeboarding but I was far better at face planting then they were. OUCH. After they were finished laughing at me we anchored at a sandbar and Gregory made some special punch for him and Thomas which consists of ice, water, Neisson Rum Syrup , lime and of course rum. The boys were happy and I had my own mix of the aforementioned sans rum. Then Gregory handed my some boudins which looks like a sausage but the filling is a mixture of bread, pork, spices and blood. It was very tasty and I had about ten of them. See the video.
The recon trip was over and I got a great feel for the island and where we will hold all the great training sessions. If you read this far and want to do some great miles with great people and even better food please join us. The island has everything you need to train seriously but also to enjoy yourself in a unique environment. Now if I can just get a hold of Miss Maritnique.
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