March 5, 2009
My name is Noelle Pikus Pace, and I am on the U.S. World Cup Skeleton Team. I sprint about 40 meters, dive head first on a cookie sheet-looking sled, and go 80mph with my chin an inch off the icy slopes of a bobsled track. Anyone interested? : ) Additionally, and firstly, I am a mom. I have a 1-year-old daughter named Lacee. (She is taking a nap right now, which is the only reason I am able to write this without her pushing the escape or delete buttons.) I think I should talk my strength and conditioning coach into counting her as my workout. Seriously, I had no idea a 1-year-old could have so much energy. My husband and I are completely exhausted by the end of the day. I am the youngest of eight children and all I can say is…props to my parents.
This week concluded our 2008-09 World Cup season. We finished in Lake Placid, New York, for the World Championships. I absolutely love the track in Lake Placid. The tracks that we compete on are not only for skeleton, but they are also for bobsled and luge. There are about 15 tracks in the world, and each of them is very different from the other. Some tracks are short, and some are long. The average length is around a mile from the top to the bottom. There are 15-20 curves in each track, and every curve is different. We have to memorize exactly what we need to do in every part of the track. We steer our sleds by applying pressure from our shoulders and knees. We occasionally drive our sleds with our toes as well.
I began bobsledding in Park City, Utah, my junior year of high school. They were recruiting track and field athletes, and I was asked to try it. The following year I switched to skeleton and fell in love with it. Just three years later (2004-05) I won my first World Cup gold medal, and went on to win the overall World Cup title and the silver medal at World Championships. I was a medal favorite going into the 2006 Olympic Games. However, at our Olympic trials, a bobsled flew out of the end of the track and hit me. I sustained an open tibia/fibula fracture. (My shin bones were sticking out of my leg…ewwwww gross!)
Despite the injury, I was determined to make the Olympic team. Six weeks after being hit, I was back in Europe competing in a World Cup race. Some people called me crazy, others determined… Honestly, I just didn’t see why I shouldn’t be able to. After competing in three races, the Olympic team was named, and due to the races I had missed for the injury, only one U.S. female would be allowed to compete. I just missed the team and was named as the alternate. I was devastated. However, I “got back on the horse” and the following season (2006-07) I finished second in the overall standings and took the Gold Medal at the World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland!! That was my most memorable moment in this sport.
I took last year off to have the greatest prize in the world, my daughter, Lacee. Although it appears as though we live the high life traveling the world and competing in a sport, it is tough. I was so burnt out after breaking my leg, rehabbing for eight hours each day, making it back to compete, and told I couldn’t go to the Olympics. It took everything I had in me to compete the following year. We travel to the same locations year after year. Ninety percent of the time it is freezing cold and snowing. We are away from our families for months at a time and room with another athlete everywhere we go. (I love you, Court, but I’m sure you understand!) When I am home in the spring and summer, I never want to leave. My clothes are in drawers and a closet instead of in a suitcase. I get to cook my meals and eat when I want instead of having to eat at our team’s scheduled meal time. And more than anything else, I get to be with my husband and daughter! I truly feel for our military and am so grateful for the sacrifices that they make for each of us. I cannot imagine being away from my family for the lengths of times that are often required of them.
Well, I finished this season ninth in the world this season and took eighth at the World Championship race in Lake Placid. I don’t think most people understand how difficult it is to be an athlete. When you are on top, people expect you to be on top. If you take second or third, they ask you what happened. Taking eighth or ninth…you’re lucky if people say anything at all. Despite what others might think, I’m proud of myself for how I did this season. I gave my best and know now how to better prepare myself going into the Olympic season this coming fall. I am excited to set an example for my daughter to always give your best and never give up. Uh, oh…she’s awake. Talk to you later!
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