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Glenbrook Trail Marathon

23/08/2016

A race might not be everyone's first choice to get over jetlag, especially one with 2,432 feet of elevation gain, but within 24 hours of arriving in Australia, Jo Zakrzewski was heading to the start line of the Glenbrook Trail Marathon in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.

The temperature at the 7:30 am race start was a rather chilly, frosty 1 degree Celsius, but a short sharp climb of 70m elevation right after the start soon got the heart rate up and the blood pumping. Jo spotted a wallaby hastily exiting this bit of single track trail, but luckily there was no evidence of the resident Black Snake as the runners passed a water hole.

The toughest climb of the race was at about 5km and averaged about a 20% gradient for 350m up to a few kms of open fire trail. A turnaround on a viewing platform high above the Nepean Valley meant that the steep climb then had to be descended again, before a 6k section of trail typical of the Blue Mountains. This was single trail with many stairs, creek crossings, and "rock hops". Although this was the most technical part of the race, the difficulty was more than compensated for by the beauty of the lush forest lined creek, sandy pools, sandstone overhangs and even the renowned "Red Hands Cave" (containing hand stencils dating back 1600 years).

As the sun rose, the temperature climbed with it, so it was then quite warm as the route climbed gently along gum-lined fire trails. After another turnaround, Jo was caught out by the rough terrain while traversing a narrow gap. She landed so hard on the packed earth that she tore her clothing and winded herself, though luckily an ex-pat Brit running just behind her came to her aid and helped her catch her breath and remove some of the dirt from face, mouth and hands (the bruises that developed over the next couple of days were a sight to behold).

The next section was reputed to be the toughest (mentally) as it was a non maintained fire trail enclosed in thick bush, so they ran on together chatting gaily. A steep descent and climb back up on the rough ground saw Jo drop back as she took slightly more care to look underfoot at all times (though it turns out that when she thought that marshals were warning her about snakes, they were actually just offering her jelly snakes to eat!!!).

The final few miles were back on fire roads so Jo was able to push on again, and happily finished in second place overall in 3 hours 16 minutes (breaking the previous ladies' CR by 12 minutes) with a handy 34 minute lead over the next lady.

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