By Rosalyn Young
Only four months after tearing the ACL in her left knee during a training run at the ESPN X-Games, Olympic ski cross gold medallist Ashleigh McIvor was ripping around Whistler's backcountry on her Ski-Doo. After a day on her snowmobile, McIvor realized she needed to get out of town for the good of her knee.
"It was something I really shouldn't have been doing with my knee as vulnerable as it was at that stage," she says. She promptly booked a trip to Hawaii, packed a road bike and headed to Oahu's North Shore for some sun, surf and quality rehab time.
The 27-year-old adrenaline junkie immediately felt at home on Oahu when she first visited on a quick trip with her mom prior to getting injured in January. The best surfers in the world were in town preparing for the infamous Eddie Aikau Big Wave Surf contest.
"I was completely hooked on the vibe in the air," McIvor says, "It's like Whistler, but the summer sports version. I decided I had to go back."
This time around the trip was all about the bike, one of the best activities to strengthen her knee. McIvor woke up early every morning and rode for a few hours along Oahu's coastlines. A seasoned mountain biker in her hometown of Whistler, McIvor admits the road bike is a different beast.
"I kept looking up into the mountains and the lush jungle, thinking, 'I want to go there.'" As luck would have it, the personable McIvor befriended a few local guys, one of whom happened to be an avid cyclist. He proved to be the perfect training partner for the Canadian, taking her on routes she would have otherwise not found. "There is something to be said for the smooth, fluid stride of pedaling a road bike," she says, "No jolting like mountain biking. But I still prefer the technical, rocky, rooty mountain bike trails for when I'm not nursing an injury."
After her daily rides, McIvor would shop at the local farmer's market for breakfast and catch up on emails and business. "I did a lot of physiotherapy exercises daily and made sure to go for a long walk on the beach every couple of days." She also made time for her painting hobby and started reading John Furlong's book Patriot Hearts.
No stranger to riding a wave or two on a wakesurf board, Ashleigh also got a few surf sessions in, careful not to put her knee in any precarious positions. "No standing up," she says, "but I did ride a couple on my belly. It felt good to just be out there paddling around and remembering what reading waves is all about." Like a true local and in loyalty to her friends, she won't divulge her surf spots.
McIvor also made it a goal to improve her social media skills during her forced downtime, using Twitter and Facebook to post photos and update fans on her rehab training.
She admits she was hesitant to embrace social media. "I definitely was very slow to jump on the bandwagon," she says. "I didn't really agree with the 'look at me' component of flashing photos around."
From a business perspective, however, McIvor understands the importance of social media in growing her name and brand. More significant to her is being able to connect with people around the world, particularly the kids who look up to her. "I think it's really cool to be able to interact with my fans and the people who draw inspiration from what I'm doing on a personal level. It's given me a sense of purpose and the more people I can reach and have an impact on, the better."
Back from Hawaii, Ashleigh most recently put her road biking skills to the test by signing up for the Subaru Sooke International Triathlon on August 7. Her knee still not strong enough to run on, McIvor's younger sister Lindsay stepped up and completed the swim and run portion of the race. "Apparently it's the hardest course in Canada with the total elevation gain but my knee felt great and I managed to pace myself appropriately." McIvor was the fourth fastest woman on the bike course.
"I definitely didn't have anything left at the finish line. I was so thankful that my sister was there to take over and bust out the 10k run."
McIvor continues to hit the gym every day for physio and rehab sessions, while enjoying the summer season in Whistler on her mountain and dirt bikes. "I should be good to go when the ski season rolls around."
Follow Ashleigh on Twitter at @ashleighmcivor.
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