NEWS

2015 Readers' Choice Award Winners Announced

The results are in! Here are the winners of our 2015 Readers' Choice Awards - as voted by you, our readers.

The votes are in – more than 2,200 of them! The winners of our 11th annual Readers’ Choice Awards represent the best races, businesses, places and events as decided by you, our readers. Where applicable, Readers’ Choice Awards are presented in three geographic regions: Eastern Canada (Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada), Western Canada (Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories) and National. Awards in the National category represent events or organizations with at least one event/operation in both the Eastern Canada and Western Canada divisions. Winners in the National category are not eligible to win a regional award. Where there are no votes or a multi-way tie (with more than four winners), no winner is indicated. Congratulations to all of our 2015 award winners.

Best Adventure Race
Eastern Canada: Storm the Trent www.stormthetrent.com
Western Canada: The Swamp Donkey www.swampdonkeyar.com

Best Charity Training Program
Team in Training www.teamintraining.ca

Best Cross Country Ski Race / Event
Eastern Canada: Canadian Ski Marathon http://csm-mcs.com/
Western Canada: Canadian Birkebeiner www.canadianbirkie.com

Best Cross Country Ski Facility
Eastern Canada: Hardwood Ski and Bike www.hardwoodskiandbike.ca
Western Canada: Whiteshell Cross Country Ski Club www.whiteshellskiclub.com

Best Cycling Club
Eastern Canada: Toronto Bicycling Network www.tbn.ca
Western Canada: Golden Cycling Club www.goldencyclingclub.com  

Best Event T-Shirt
Eastern Canada: Ultra-Trail Harricana http://harricana.info/en/
Western Canada: Sinister 7 www.sinister7.com

Best Health/Fitness Club
National: GoodLife Fitness www.goodlifefitness.com
Eastern Canada: Fitt Gym www.fittgym.com
Western Canada: Johnny B Fitt Fitness Centre www.johnnybfitt.ca

Best Lap Swimming Pool
Eastern Canada: U of T Athletic Centre www.utoronto.ca
Western Canada: Kitsilano Pool www.vancouver.ca

Best Marathon
Eastern Canada: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com
Western Canada: BMO Vancouver Marathon www.bmovanmarathon.ca

Best Masters Swim Club
Eastern Canada: North Toronto Masters Swim Club www.swimordie.ca
Western Canada: UBC Masters Swim Club www.ubcmasters.com

Best Mountain Biking Event/Race
Eastern Canada: 24 Hours of Summer Solstice www.chicoracing.com
Western Canada: 24 Hours of Falcon Ridge www.24hoursoffalconridge.com tied with 24 Hours of Adrenalin www.24hoursofadrenalin.com

Best Mountain Biking Facility
Eastern Canada: Hardwood Ski and Bike www.hardwoodskiandbike.ca
Western Canada: Whistler Mountain Bike Park http://bike.whistlerblackcomb.com/

Best Obstacle / Mud Racing Event
National Series: Spartan Race www.spartanrace.ca
Eastern Canada: MetConBlue www.metconrace.com 
Western Canada: Dirty Donkey Mud Run www.dirtydonkeyrun.com

Best Colour Run
National Series: Color Me Rad www.colormerad.com

Best Off-Road Triathlon
National: XTERRA www.xterracanada.com
Eastern Canada: Cataraqui Adventure Trek  www.racethecat.ca
Western Canada: Edmonton River Valley Offroad Triathlon www.ervtri.com

Best Orienteering Event/Race
Eastern Canada: Raid the Hammer www.dontgetlost.ca
Western Canada: Manitoba Orienteering Festival www.orienteering.mb.ca

Best Outdoors Store:
National: Mountain Equipment Co-op www.mec.ca
Eastern Canada: Algonquin Outfitters www.algonquinoutfitters.com  
Western Canada: Wilderness Supply www.wildernesssupply.ca

Best Personal Trainer
Eastern Canada:  Elaine McCrea www.therunnersshop.com
Western Canada: Kim Ogren, Kim’s Kickin’ Fit http://on.fb.me/1HAnzaT

Best Piece of Sports Gear or Apparel
Buff www.buffcanada.com

Best Place to Buy a Bike
Eastern Canada: Gears Bike Shop www.gearsbikeshop.com
Western Canada: Different Bikes www.differentbikes.ca  

Best Place to Buy Running Shoes
National: The Running Room www.runningroom.com
Eastern Canada: The Runners Shop www.therunnersshop.com
Western Canada: Fast Trax Run and Ski Shop www.fasttraxskishop.com

Best Place to Buy Tri Gear
Eastern Canada: Enduro Sport www.endurosport.com
Western Canada: Tri It Multisport www.tri-it.ca

Best Place to Do a Spin Class
National: GoodLife Fitness www.goodlifefitness.com
Eastern Canada: Quad Spinning www.quadspin.com
Western Canada: Method www.methodindoorcycling.com 

Best Place to go with a Sports Injury
Eastern Canada: Athletes Care www.athletescare.com
Western Canada: Lac du Bonnet Physiotherapy

Best Post-Race Party
National: Spartan Race www.spartanrace.ca  
Eastern Canada: Band on the Run www.bandontherun.ca  
Western Canada: Electric Donkey Run www.electricdonkeyrun.com

Best Race Kit
Eastern Canada: Muskoka River X www.muskokariverx.com
Western Canada: That Dam Race https://thatdamrace.wordpress.com/

Best Road Cycling Race/Event
National: Cycle for Sight www.cycleforsight.ca
Eastern Canada: Centurion www.centurioncycling.com
Western Canada: Tour of Alberta www.tourofalberta.ca  

Best Road Triathlon
National: Ironman www.ironman.com
Eastern Canada: Niagara Falls Barrelman www.niagarafallstriathlon.com
Western Canada: Hecla Triathlon www.heclatri.com  

Best Run Club
National: The Running Room www.runningroom.com
Eastern Canada: Tribe Fitness www.facebook.com/tribefitnesstoronto
Western Canada: Lions Gate Road Runners www.lgrr.com

Best Road Running Race (non-marathon)
Eastern Canada: Band on the Run www.bandontherun.ca
Western Canada: Winnipeg Police Services Half Marathon www.wpshalfmarathon.ca

Best Ski Hill
Eastern Canada: Blue Mountain Resort www.bluemountain.ca
Western Canada: Whistler Blackcomb www.whistlerblackcomb.com

Best Snowshoe Race / Event
Eastern Canada: Don’t Get Lost Snowshoe Raid www.dontgetlost.ca
Western Canada: The Yeti – Snowshoe Racing Series www.theyeti.ca

Best Sports Drink
Gatorade www.gatorade.ca

Best Sport Nutrition Food
GORP Clean Energy Bar www.gorpworld.com

Best SUP Race
Eastern Canada: Muskoka River X www.muskokariverx.com
Western Canada: Kalamalka Classic www.kalamalkaclassic.com

Best Trail/Ultra Run
National: 5 Peaks Trail Running Series www.5peaks.com
Eastern Canada: UTHC Harricana www.harricana.info
Western Canada: Sinister 7 Ultra www.sinister7.com

Best Winter Race:
National: Hypothermic Half Marathon www.runningroom.com
Eastern Canada: Chilly Half Marathon www.chillyhalfmarathon.ca   
Western Canada: Ice Donkey www.swampdonkeyar.com

Best Indoor Climbing Gym
Eastern Canada: Clip ‘N Climb http://www.altitudegym.ca/en/clip/
Western Canada: Vertical Adventures www.verticaladventures.com

Best Urban Race
National: City Chase www.citychase.ca
Eastern Canada: Mud Hero Urban www.mudhero.com
Western Canada: Pain in the ASSiniboine www.swampdonkeyar.com

Best Sports Photography Company
Epic Action www.epicactionimagery.com

Best Outdoor Festival
Eastern Canada: Band on the Run www.bandontherun.ca
Western Canada: Fire & Water Music Festival www.firenwater.ca 

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FEATURE STORY: Bearpocalypse

When bears attack *and what you need to know to stay alive*

The only forewarning Dan Bigley and his friend Jim had that they were approaching a Grizzly Bear as they walked the Grayling Trailhead in Western Alaska after a day of fishing was the yap-yap from Dan’s tiny dog. Upon eyeing the grizzly, Dan and Jim stood close together and raised their arms so as to appear bigger, and then quietly and quickly discussed how to put some distance between them and the beast. They decided to head upstream from the bear, slowly and quietly, and for a time they actually seemed to get away. They had opted for an alternate route around the area where they'd seen the bear to get back to their car, when suddenly they heard a rustling in an alder tree nearby. Hidden in the foliage were a couple of baby bears, meaning the furious creature they'd encountered earlier was undoubtedly a mother bear in protective mode. What they didn’t know was that, with quiet cunning, the mother bear had been stalking them the whole time. Carrying a heart full of violence stoked by the fires of parental rage, the bear charged the group. Jim and the dog dove off the trail for cover, and suddenly 25-year-old Dan Bigley was the only thing standing between mother bear and her cubs. Dan tried to leap out of the way of the 700 pound bear, but it caught his quad midair and pinned him, then slammed him around by the head and shoulders like a rag doll. Dan blacked out, and for the duration of the attack kept drifting in and out of consciousness. He remembers waking up on his stomach, with the bear still mauling away at his backside. He heard his friend Jim calling out to see if he was OK. Dan knew it was unlikely that enough time had passed for Jim to have returned with help, but he wanted to let Jim know he was alive so he called out to him. In retrospect, this was a catastrophic mistake that very nearly cost him his life. Jim received this message, but unfortunately so did the bear. Dan's call to Jim led the bear to flip him over on his back and deliver what Dan called the "death blow." Putting her four-and-a-half-inch claws into Dan's shoulders, the bear began to take bites out of Dan's skull. Mercifully, Dan was unconscious by that point. The bear moved off with cubs in tow and, given the remoteness of their whereabouts, it was two full hours before medics were able to get to him and a further two hours before a helicopter arrived and took him to a hospital. Doctors described the bone matter in Dan's head as "pulverized,” and according to the official E.R. report, he arrived in the emergency room in a condition "incompatible with human life. Ears, eyes, nose, and face unrecognizable." He lived to tell the tale, but barely. On May 9, 2015 in Mackenzie, B.C, a 27-year-old man was attacked and killed by a black bear while camping with his fiancée. The man had fallen asleep near a fire pit at his campsite while his fiancée slept in their motorhome. When she awoke the next morning, there was no sign of him. She left to get help and upon returning they found his dead body, which had been mauled by a large black bear. Authorities promptly located and shot the bear. In October 2014, a young couple living in Johnson's Crossing, Yukon, had their own terrifying ordeal with an agitated Grizzly. The incident began when the couple's dog started barking, alerting husband Matthias Liniger to the bear's presence. The animal approached a window and put its paws on the glass, forcing it to give way. The bear then fell into the house and chased wife Claudia Huber and the dog out. Huber took refuge in an SUV parked outside and Liniger was inside a second vehicle parked nearby. The bear repeatedly jumped on the hood of the vehicle Liniger was in, and he honked the horn of his vehicle, which caused the bear to run away. Investigators believe Huber at this point saw an opportunity to make a break for Liniger’s vehicle, but she never made it. The bear attacked her, dragging her into the nearby woods forcing Liniger to run into the house to get his gun. He fired several shots at the bear before running back inside for more ammunition. He fired more shots, eventually killing the bear. Liniger then drove a mangled Huber to the nearest health centre, about 50 kilometres away, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Initial accounts by investigators suggested Huber was killed by the bear, but an autopsy later revealed she had in fact died from a gunshot. With horrific irony, investigators returned to the scene and found bullet fragments and damage to a tree branch that indicated the bullet had passed through the branch, then ricocheted off the tree and into Huber's body, killing her instantly. Despite the pant-shitting fear of attack, The Bear Almanac, a dossier of bear tidings published in 2009, indicates that only 1-2 persons are annually killed by bears in North America. (Compare that to Hokkaido, Japan, where more than 100 persons are killed annually by brown bears). Comparatively, for each bear death in North America, 8 people die from spider bites, 34 from domesticated dogs, 90 from bees and wasps, more than 175 from hunting accidents, 190 from lightning strikes, and 40,000 from motor vehicle accidents. The Almanac may well play down the ravages of bears, but the fact remains that bears instill a common, omnipresent fear in the mind of outdoor enthusiasts who dare to venture forth into the natural habitat of bears. Hikers, campers, hunters, fishermen, trail runners, and mountain bikers are prodded by outdoor guidebooks, brochures, and placards in well-visited bear zones to read up on bear advice to minimise potential risk of attack. Nonetheless, people’s collective safety antennae probe the air on red alert and for most, genuine fear and apprehension occupies a significant chunk of headspace when in bear country. A few fun facts about bears; adult female grizzlies can weigh 1.7- 2.3 times as much as adult female black bears. Black bears can motor up to 25-30 miles per hour over short distances, while grizzlies can rev the engine up to 35-40mph. Black bears tend to wander a lot, whereas grizzlies tread familiar, deeply worn trails. Black bears are excellent tree climbers, whereas grizzlies do not generally climb. Both bears typically live 14-20 years in the wild, and near double in captivity. In terms of disposition, black bears adapt better to human presence, are considered less aggressive and more apt to flee, while grizzlies are far more aggressive and usually defend space and food sources. The Almanac terms black bears “extremely clever, creatures of habit, inquisitive and playful” while grizzlies are known as “deliberate, fearless, bold, and solitary unless at a concentrated food source.” The almanac continues that “curiosity, combined with a high capacity for learning and an excellent memory, may be the key to a bear’s ‘intelligence’”. Interestingly, bears have the “biggest brains relative to body size of any carnivore, giving them ample capacity to interpret and remember,” notes Candace Savage in her book Grizzly Bears. Enos Mills, in his book The Grizzly, says “I would give the Grizzly first place in the animal world for brainpower,” and according to University of Tennessee psychologist, Terry Domico, “American black bears are capable of nearly as many responses in a given circumstance as a human.” Despite the threat of bear attack, general consensus remains that bears are beautiful beasts, and, for the most part, are simply doing what they have always done in their own domain. By entering the wilderness, humans are, in a sense trespassing, and there is inherent risk in doing so. Several recent cases of bear shootings by Conservation Officers (and hunters) – some triggered by domesticated bears fossicking through residential space - have been met with significant backlash from the public. In fact, it has become both a topic of hot debate and a public relations nightmare in some quarters. With suburbia expanding throughout the land, and people opting to build their homes in increasingly remote locales, it has become ever more crucial to heed safety advice to minimise risk and allow man and bear to coexist. WATCH: Joggers encounter black bear on trail run.  
If you encounter a Black Bear it is likely to react in one of four ways: Fleeing Bear: In most cases, a bear will hear or smell you before you are aware of it. Even if you surprise a bear, it will most often flee the area. If it flees, remain on the lookout and be cautious. Habituated Bear: Some bears lose their fear of humans from frequent human contact or from being rewarded with human food or garbage. These bears may not respond to our attempts to dissuade them and may react defensively. Stay calm and determine if the bear is aware of you. If the bear is unaware of you, move away quietly. However, if the bear is aware of you, talk to the bear in a low tone, wave your arms, back away, and leave the area. Defensive Bear: A defensive bear will respond in a defensive manner if it perceives you as a threat or if it is defending a food source. It may use vocalizations such as huffing, blowing air loudly through nostrils, exhaling loudly and "popping" of teeth, and may swat the ground with its fore paws, lowering its head, and drawing back the ears. As well, a defensive bear may resort to bluff charges. The bear is feeling threatened by your presence and is trying to get you to back off. Stop and face the bear. If you are with others, stay together and act as a group. Make sure the bear has a clear escape route. Slowly back away while watching the bear and wait for it to leave. Use a whistle or airhorn, or bear spray if you have them. Do not turn and run as this may trigger a predatory response in the bear, and do not climb a tree as bears are excellent climbers. Predatory Black Bear: On extremely rare occasions, a bear will attack humans with the intent to kill. Predatory bears seldom make huffing or "popping" sounds, nor do they swat the ground with their forepaws, or bluff charge as defensive bears sometimes do. Instead, they silently stalk, or press closer and closer to their intended prey, apparently assessing whether it is safe to attack. Leave the area if you can, but never turn and run. If you cannot leave, confront the bear. Do everything in your power to make the bear think twice about attacking you. Be aggressive, yell, throw rocks, hit the bear with sticks, and use your whistle, airhorn, or bear spray if you have them. If a predatory bear does make contact with you, do not play dead. Fighting back with everything you have is the best way to persuade a predatory Black Bear to halt its attack.   3 BEAR SAFETY RULES 1. Never feed or approach a bear - The Black Bear can quickly become accustomed to human sources of food. People who feed bears are creating problems for everyone. 2. Store food out of reach of bears - In developed campgrounds and picnic areas, store all your food (including pet food) inside the closed trunk of your vehicle, if possible. Do not store food, cooking utensils or fragrant items, such as soap, toothpaste, or shaving cream in your tent. When camping in the backcountry, put all food in a pack and hang it well off the ground, and away from the vicinity of your tent. The pack should be at least 4 metres (~13 feet) off the ground and 2 metres (~7 feet) away from the tree trunk. It is also wise to hang your pack away from your sleeping, cooking and eating areas. One Tree Technique Two Tree Technique 3. Keep a clean campsite - In developed campgrounds, reduce the availability of garbage and odours by depositing your garbage daily in the bear-proof waste containers. Clean your picnic table and barbecue after every use, and be sure any spilled grease is cleaned up. When camping in the backcountry, burn any food scraps and fat drippings – but not plastics, styrofoam, or aluminum foil - thoroughly in a fire. Any remaining garbage should be placed in your litter bag and suspended along with the food. To eliminate food odours, dishes should be washed immediately after each meal, preferably well away from your campsite. Additionally, you should know how to use, store, and carry bear spray, which is used to deter bears. Also, keep your dog away from any bears as bears may chase them toward people. Regarding Grizzlies, here a few things you need to know. They don’t like surprises, so when you’re out in the backcountry consider belting out a tune with gusto, attach a small bell to you or your pack, and/or exchange happy tales of adventure with your buddy in nice loud voices.  It’s also wise to curtail explorations of dark, unknown caves or hollow logs, as these are prime spots for den building. As with black bears, pick up all garbage, cooking supplies and clean up thoroughly after meals and secure food overnight by hanging it high in the air. If you and the Grizzly have seen each other, stop and don’t move. Speak to the bear in a low, calm voice and slowly raise your arms in the air, making you appear bigger. If you see a bear with a cub, leave quickly. Mother bear’s number one priority will be cub protection, leaving little room for negotiation if she feels threatened. Best way to get away is just hit reverse. Slowly retrace your footsteps, avoiding crossing the path of the bear, and do not run! To a bear it looks like a game they want to play, and because they’re able to reach top speeds of 40mph, it’s a game they’ll very likely win. If things are dire, find a tree and climb it. Grizzly bears aren’t as good climbers as black bears, so a height of 3-4 metres should be sufficient. Less desirable options include playing dead. Adopt the fetal position, protecting your most vulnerable bits, and maybe try putting your backpack on top for an extra layer of protection. The pathetic sight of you should make you appear less threatening, earning maybe a sniff and a growl but hopefully being left alone. However, if it is a black bear, do not play dead. They will view you as an easy lunch option. If all else fails, the last desperate option is to fight with all your might. Bear spray can be pretty efficient if dispersed in the bear’s face, hopefully giving you time to escape. Otherwise your best bet is some extremely loud yelling, screaming, kicking, and go hard for the eye area. Have you run into a bear on the trail? Share your story in the comments below.