How Olympic mom Noelle Pikus-Pace stays fearless
Fresh off winning a medal at the Sochi Winter Games, Olympic skeleton slider Noelle Pikus-Pace chatted with SheKnows about how she balances staying in shape and training with taking care of her two children, Lacee and Traycen. She also opens up about her difficult miscarriage and how she stays fearless as she races at lightning speed down the track.
Noelle Pikus-Pace has quite the impressive resume, including winning the silver medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics in the skeleton event, as well as winning 26 World Cup medals in the winter sliding sport. Being an Olympic mom is not an easy task — in fact, of the 230 U.S. athletes that competed in Sochi, only three are mothers.
Her journey to the Olympic medal hasn’t always been easy, especially as a busy mom to her 6-year-old daughter Lacee and 2-year-old son Traycen. In 2005, a runaway bobsled hit her and shattered her leg, leaving her unable to compete at the 2006 Olympics. After giving birth to her daughter Lacee, she trained hard to compete at the 2010 Vancouver games, only to miss nabbing the Bronze medal by one-tenth of a second. She decided to retire to spend more time with the family and soon gave birth to her second child, Traycen. She then had a devastating miscarriage when she was 18 weeks along with her third child, and her husband Janson Pace convinced her to come out of retirement.
As it turns out, coming out of retirement was a great move as she now has an Olympic medal hanging on her wall — and she will continue to compete with her family by her side.
We sat down to chat with Pikus-Pace on motherhood and how she stays fearless when flying down the frozen track at 80 miles per hour.
Interview with Noelle Pikus-Pace
SheKnows: For those who don’t know, how is the skeleton different from a bobsled?
Noelle Pikus-Pace: The biggest difference is that in skeleton we have a little sled that we sprint with and then jump onto our bellies and go down the track head first. Another difference is that skeleton is an individual sport and bobsled is a team sport.
SK: How do you balance training for the Olympics with motherhood?
NPP: I find that one of the biggest things for balancing the two is time management — being organized and having everything I need when I need it and where I need it. For me, as an athlete I have my gym in my basement, so I work out and lift weights there. I run my sprints on the street right outside my house. It just makes everything that much easier — I don’t have to get in a car and spend time travelling to get to my workouts. And the same thing goes for my being a mom. I’m all about doing as much as I can in one place and getting as much done as possible. So for example, when I go on a Pampers run, I may go to Babies R Us where I can also get clothing or wipes or pick up a sippy cup.
SK: How did you get interested in skeleton racing?
NPP: I started out participating in track and field. When I was a junior in high school, my coach asked me if I wanted to do bobsled and then senior year, they were also doing skeleton — so I tried it and totally fell in love.
SK: Congratulations on your win in Sochi! Did your kids go with you to Sochi or did they watch from home?
NPP: My family came with me. Actually, two years ago my husband and I made a decision that if I were going to stay with the sport, we would always be together as a family, so my husband and two children have done a lot of travelling over the past two years. We were a little nervous about taking the children to Sochi because we had heard a lot about security concerns. But once we got there it felt very safe and it was really an awesome experience to have them at the finish line and to run up into the stands and give them a big hug.
SK: Do you want your children to follow in your Olympic footsteps?
NPP: I want them to do whatever makes them happy. I want them to find their own challenges and do their best at whatever they want to do. If they choose to work towards the Olympics that’s great, but if they choose something else we will be right there cheering them on.
SK: I know your sport can be dangerous. Do you think about your safety more now that you are a mom?
NPP: No, I don’t worry about safety. I feel completely confident in my ability to get down the track. I don’t feel it is a dangerous sport. I’ve done it thousands of time and I don’t feel any fear. I go into a competition having that confidence and it makes me safe. Really, for competitors in skeleton, the most dangerous part is if you panic, so since I remain confident in my ability, I know I will be safe.
SK: Does your husband get nervous watching you compete?
NPP: No he does not. He has seen me compete a thousand times and knows the experience I have. He knows my ability — maybe even better than I do. He is always right there by my side. And, in fact, he is the one person who encouraged me to stick with the sport even when I had my doubts.
SK: You are the youngest of eight children — how was it growing up with a large family? Would you like a large family as well?
NPP: I absolutely loved it. That is where I got my competitiveness. As the youngest I was always trying to keep up with my older siblings. I was always taking dares from them. If my brother rode his skis off the roof, then I would jump off the roof with an umbrella. That is where I got my competitive edge — being the youngest in a big family.
In terms of wanting a big family, big is relative, but we definitely would like one or two more kids. We love family and kids — and really can’t imagine having a small family, so we definitely want more kids.
SK: You have been open about your difficult miscarriage. What advice would you give to other women who are also coping with this type of loss?
NPP: The only advice I can give — because I know a heart is not something easily mended — is that it will get better with time. That may not sound very comforting, but time helps. Life goes on and you have to keep pushing on. Each day you find things to look forward to and that you are grateful for.
SK: What is your favorite healthy, quick snack when you are on the go?
NPP: I like to cut up fruits and veggies and put them in small bags — apples, cucumbers, baby carrots, whole wheat bread, string cheese — things that and I can put in my purse and grab when I need a snack.