(Unless stated, all photos featuring the race logo are by Sue Sitki – https://suesitkiphoto.shotsee.com/)

The Sticks n’ Stones trail race took place at Christie Lake Conservation Area near Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Jenn from our team took on the 10km event; there were also 5km, 25km, 50km and 50km relay options.

1 Pre-event info

In addition to the detailed information available on the event registration page, participants received a pre-race email with all of the pertinent race day details.

On race morning, the race director Jeff gathered us all for the standard (Happy Trails Racing standard!) pre-race meeting to reiterate the more important details, right down to the puddles and hazards we might encounter on course, and address any questions. We then gathered for a lovely rendition of our national anthem before heading off to the start.

2 Event location (parking, facilities/washrooms)

This is my third time participating in this race and Christie Lake Conservation area is one of my favourite locations; it’s roughly one hour from Toronto city centre, is easy to locate and has ample parking. It’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the main race area where there was plenty of space to setup a rest spot for the day, or you could just set your supplies in the designated bag drop area or under the pavilion. This location also offers indoor washrooms with change rooms, which is a nice bonus as it has rained before or during the last 2 out of 3 years. Having a dry shelter for changing after the race is much appreciated.

3 Aid Stations (snacks and water/fuel)

There were 2 aid stations available for each loop, one located at the start/finish (Tanker’s Canteen Aid Station) and the other one at the 2.5k mark (Russell’s Roost Aid Station). The aid stations had generous amounts of the standard options; water, electrolyte drinks, coke, gingerale, fruit, and lots of sweet & salty snacks. The start/finish aid station also offered pizza from a Hamilton locale that makes a classic “bread pizza”, and the flavourful sauce and dough is certainly a welcome offering after a couple of loops.

The drinks were served in reusable EcoCups, which we think is a brilliant idea. They can be washed, sterilized, and re-used over 100 times and then recycled.

4 General atmosphere of the Event HQ (event staff, volunteers, other runners, what’s there for spectators)

I completed 10km at this event which started at a leisurely time of 10 o’clock whereas the 25 and 50km events started at 9. With the later start I had some extra time to hang out before my race at the event headquarters to visit the vendors, volunteers and just take in the fall scenery. As a bonus, there was the Kids 1km happening just before 9 which was certainly a fun start to kick off the event. As usual the area was full of good spirit and cheers of encouragements as the 25 and 50km runners were finishing one loop and starting the next. True to the standard set at previous events, the volunteers were always at the ready to offer up fuel, help with questions or provide the runners and spectators any assistance needed.

5 Course (length, technicality, scenery)

The race course was very thoroughly marked, with markers at each kilometer of the 5km loop. As the pre-race email accurately put it “It will be nearly impossible to get lost”. The majority of the course takes place on the Round-the-Lake Trail with a lot of very small rolling hills and a couple of medium hills. The terrain is mostly non-technical with very few roots and rocks to trip over and is mostly a wide, groomed trail with pleasant scenery. Here’s a photo I snapped as I ran to show you how it looks.

Shoe choice: I wore my cushy trail shoes and I’m glad I did. While you could definitely get away with road shoes on this course, it had rained earlier in the morning and there were a few slippery bits so the extra traction gave me the opportunity to charge down the hills with a better grip.

6 On course aid stations

The one aid station available along the 5km course (not at the start/finish) was Russell’s Roost Aid Station, located at the 2.5k mark. These volunteers were ready to get you whatever drink or salty/sweet snack you needed from their table, and were announcing their presence via upbeat shouts of “water” and the other offerings that you could hear while you were crossing the dam to let you know you were closing in.

7 Race kit, medals and awards

Participants in the 5k, 10k, 25k and 50k relay received a Stick n’ Stones Trail Race toque, which I was using immediately after the race. It’s a perfect race item for the fluctuating October weather. Racers in the 50k received a Sticks n’ Stones Trail Race Hoodie. The design of the swag changes every year and is a lot of fun. I am still using my toques from the last 2 years, and the hoodie I purchased from the inaugural race.

Race medals were nicely finished pieces of wood with the race logo burned onto them. Category winners were awarded a simple and elegant wooden plaque, also with the race logo and finishing place burned into place. Happy Trails puts so much thought into the awards and finishers items, each one unique to the specific race. It’s hard not to want to earn one or more of these trophies.

8 Post-event info (photography, films)

The photographer was once again the brilliant Sue Sitki (https://suesitkiphoto.shotsee.com/) and she was as good as ever. Sue is always very encouraging and fun, a perfect race photographer doubling as an enthusiastic supporter. All photos were free for runners to download and they were online a couple of days after the event.