Noelle Pikus-Pace packs up her silver medal and her family to slide from Eagle Mountain to Costa Rica. Next Olympic-sized event? Giving birth to twin boys in July.
Mountain View High and UVU grad Noelle Pikus-Pace is a mother to two — Lacee, age 7 and Traycen, age 4. She’s due to deliver two baby boys later this month. And two is also the number of bedrooms she’ll be living in for — you guessed it — two years as she supports her husband while he pursues an MBA in Costa Rica.
“It’s a sacrifice, but we feel it’s going to be worth it,” Noelle says of their move to the Caribbean after nine years of life and love and Olympic-sized dreams in Eagle Mountain.
During the Utah Valley Magazine photo shoot, the Paces were loading two moving trucks, with most of their belongings headed to storage.
“We’re only taking suitcases with us when we move,” she says. “We’re looking forward to simplifying.” (If that’s what you can call “adding twins” to a busy family.)
But the Paces are familiar with challenges and changes — and they know Costa Rica isn’t the finish line. It’s a way of getting a second MBA in the family (Noelle completed hers in 2007 at Colorado Technical University). The move also supports Noelle’s goal to become bilingual like Lacee, who has taken Spanish immersion classes here in Utah, and husband, Janson, who served an LDS mission in Panama.
“I want to give motivational speeches in Spanish,” Noelle says. “That’s on my bucket list.”
Goal-setting and goal-believing are what got Noelle on the Olympic team three times and on the silver medal podium for skeleton at the Winter Games in 2014.
Her double-dose of charm and gratitude put her on the Utah Valley roster of heroines.
Happy in Happy Valley
Although the Pace family is saying adios to Utah County for two years, Happy Valley will always be the place where she got the love and support that took her from a high school and college track star to a Winter Olympian.
“We are sad to leave Utah County and we hope to come back,” she says. “We have traveled the world, and we have never had the love and support we have here. The community has been invaluable.”
Like the time her neighbor bought her a new sled so she could continue training for skeleton. Like the time someone else financed her family to travel while she competed (which was the only way she was willing to go for the 2014 Games). Like the gazillion times she developed friendships and relationships with coaches, teammates, neighbors and young women.
Step one: The idea
The idea of moving out of the country to focus on Janson’s MBA has been kicked around the Pace dinner table for nearly a decade. Noelle was planning to retire after the 2006 Olympics, but when she got hit with a bobsled in 2005 and didn’t medal in 2006, their family’s track was altered. Noelle recovered and stepped back into competition — and she also got a master’s degree and gave birth to Lacee. Again, she set a “goodbye, skeleton” date for after the 2010 Olympics.
“I retired in 2010 and we looked into moving to Costa Rica again for schooling, but the timing didn’t feel right,” she says. As it turns out, her route would yet include another Olympic run, this time with a 2014 finish line that went silver — and went viral.
“I’ll never forget jumping into the stands to celebrate with my family,” she says. “It was a family accomplishment and a family celebration.”
Six months after winning the world over with her silver medal, Noelle and Janson started talking about his MBA again, with possible attendance at BYU or Utah.
“We realized we could keep going with our lives here in Utah — or we could go see who we could become. We chose to move forward with faith and live life to the fullest by leaving the country. I’m going to get involved with the church community down there and see where I can serve and what I can do to help — and I’m going to adjust to life with twin boys,” she says with her characteristic laugh.
Part of Noelle’s secret sauce has always been her ability to look down the track a few years.
“I’ve tried to foresee where I’d want my life to be in a year — or in three years or five years,” Noelle says. “While I’m in the process of doing one thing — like going for the Olympics or writing a book — I’ve tried to look ahead and anticipate what I’m going to do when that chapter closes.”
Ironically, she didn’t see that same attribute in many of her fellow Olympians.
“After competing, many of them are left thinking, ‘Now what?’” she says. “Some easily fall into depression and wander through life the next six months or even years after that.”
Noelle and Janson made a bucket list together to help themselves develop and grow in their post-Olympic game of life.
“We want to use all the talents God has blessed us with,” Noelle says. “That propels us to take risks and to have faith to move forward. We know that continually growing and progressing will make us better people and ensure we aren’t holding ourselves back.”
Noelle’s bucket list includes learning to speak Spanish, becoming fluent in sign language, golfing in Scotland, being able to play any LDS hymn and seeing aurora borealis (northern lights).
Her life goals didn’t include becoming famous. Just before this interview with Utah Valley Magazine, Noelle was at Costco and out to eat with her family, and she was surprised that people recognized her, especially since she was sporting a new hair cut and jean cut-offs — “long ones,” she points out. “I don’t wear Daisy Dukes!”
Noelle doesn’t see herself as a celebrity, which is part of her signature charm.
“I’m still Noelle who grew up in Orem. Winning a medal hasn’t and won’t change who I am — it might change how people have heard of me, and it’s opened up doors and given me opportunities I’m forever grateful for.”
[pullquote]“I’m still Noelle who grew up in Orem. Winning a medal hasn’t and won’t change who I am — it might change how people have heard of me, and it’s opened up doors and given me opportunities I’m forever grateful for.” —Noelle Pikus-Pace, Olympian[/pullquote]
Double the Fun
Noelle’s track to motherhood has been uphill. She’s given birth to two healthy children, but she’s also experienced multiple miscarriages, which makes this successful twin pregnancy all the sweeter. Even so, she hasn’t been sitting still reading “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” or sewing matching sets of baby booties.
“With this move, I’ve felt bad because I’ll think about the babies and what we could name them, for example,” Noelle says. “But then I’m off to clean the basement. Then later, I’ll think about names again for a split second, and then I’ll remember we all need passports before we leave.”
But Lacee has been thinking about what to name her new siblings. She suggests “Costa” and “Rico.” Janson jokingly has talked about “Zach and Slater” or “Goose and Maverik.”
No matter their names, Noelle will call herself grateful for being their mom.
“I never expected to have twins, and I feel a mix of emotions — but mostly blessed,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of problems with pregnancy, so to get two here is a blessing.”
Because of her close medical monitoring, Noelle knew they were twins when she was four weeks along.
“But I still don’t think I’ll actually comprehend it until they are here,” she says.
Noelle’s first priority when planning a move to Costa Rica was finding a good doctor and a great facility where she could have the babies. Her mother and sister plan to come down soon after the twins are born.
While pregnancy hasn’t been easy for Noelle, she appreciates staying in shape — “round shape,” as she calls it.
“I know once I’m done, I’ll start running again,” she says. “Being on bedrest at the beginning was tough. It was hard to give up the physically active side of me, which I’ve always depended on for my happiness and progression.”
Beauty and the Beauty
Although Noelle is a media darling for her charm and her beauty, she isn’t high maintenance when it comes to her routine.
“My makeup all comes from Smith’s, Walmart or Target,” she says. “I’ve never been in a true makeup store.”
In fact, as a champion of young women and adults alike, she worries about her fans seeing her dolled up in magazines, “But that is 3 percent of my time,” she says. “Most of the time, I’m in mom mode and not ‘photo-ready.’”
The one beauty routine she sticks with is using Regenerist for her face in the summertime.
“In high school I tried to get tan and dark and I’d use Hawaiian oil,” she says. “What was I thinking?”
Now Noelle sees that body image is the biggest challenge facing women.
“We compare ourselves to other women and feel like we aren’t enough. We need to know we have everything we need in order to become who we need to become. As long as we are progressing, we are beautiful, talented, capable women. Yes, our talents are different. I can do skeleton and maybe you can’t. But we all make this world go around. We all have different talents and are shaped different ways, but we are all beautiful.”
Although Noelle depends on her electronic devices, she prefers making a weekly to-do list on a piece of paper and having it on the kitchen counter.
“I do that on Sunday evenings, and it’s fulfilling throughout the week to check things off,” she says.
But she also knows she won’t score 100.
“I’ve learned the importance of being lenient,” she says. “I want to push, but with kids — things happen. If I can’t accomplish something, I am patient with myself and try again tomorrow.”
She also believes in giving ourselves time to be who we are.
“I get 15 minutes a day just for me. I will write in my journal or sit and do nothing,” she says. “I feel so much better when I’m accomplishing things, but I also know I need time to just be.”
Sometimes that comes at the end of a full day when she’s talking to her husband and watching a rerun of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
About the Author
Noelle had always thought about writing a book, but while she was at the 2014 Olympics, she got an email from Sheri Dew about meeting when she got home. The day after Noelle returned with silver around her neck, she met with Sheri and was given 30 days to write a 10-chapter book.
“Every time I got on a flight, I would type up stories,” she says. “Luckily with Personal Progress, I had started the habit of keeping a journal. I went through my stories and picked ones to share.”
Noelle served as the Stake Young Women president in her LDS stake in Eagle Mountain until October 2013 when she was fully focused on her Olympic season.
“It was such an incredible experience to be with the young women and the leaders — that’s where my heart is,” she says. “I absolutely love the youth and I can see their potential. As a leader, you get a glimpse of who they can become.”
Noelle’s Olympic memories rival that of planning stake girls camp and the spiritual and silly time they had in the mountains — “hopefully you don’t get a hold of any of those pictures!” she says. “I had absolutely the best presidency and we meshed well together and got a lot accomplished.”
As part of her calling, Noelle was attending a Young Women training in Spring 2013 with Elaine Dalton, who was Young Women General President. Sister Dalton asked the leaders to get out their Young Women necklaces and set the example for leaders and girls by wearing them.
“I went home that night and went digging through my box. My medallion was still in its velvet case from when I earned it at age 14,” Noelle says. “My presidency and I started wearing our necklaces every day, so I had mine on while doing interviews for the Olympics. I was often asked questions about it, and I realized what kind of example I could be. I told everyone that Personal Progress helped me decide who I wanted to become.”
[pullquote]“I love my name Noelle because there was never another one in my class,” she says. “I got married a year into starting skeleton, and I kept Pikus because I’m proud of my heritage and my ancestry. I could have switched, but in the athletic world I was Noelle Pikus. I added Pace because I liked the alliteration of it. It’s memorable and unique.” —Noelle Pikus-Pace, Olympian[/pullquote]
One of Noelle’s most memorable Personal Progress goals was volunteering as a candy striper at American Fork Hospital.
“I was there for a whole summer and I took food into ICU for the patients,” she says. “People would smile when I would come in their rooms, and I would get to hear their happy stories of how they were getting better.”
Noelle still loves meeting people and swapping stories. But one of her challenges now is making time for all the women — young and old — who want to meet her in real life and take a pic with her silver medal for social media.
“I wish I could be everywhere,” she says. “At one point I was doing 15 speeches a month and getting burned out. I couldn’t keep up that pace and I couldn’t do that to my kids.”
She is booked a year in advance for church groups, and now Noelle limits her speaking engagements to one or two per week.
“I can’t do everything people need me to do, and I need time to rejuvenate and think about who I want to become,” Noelle says, which is one of the benefits of the two-year gig in Central America. But make no mistake about it. Noelle is comfortable in the spotlight and on the stage.
“I really enjoy motivational speaking and I’ve been blessed to travel all over the place, speaking and helping people see the importance of setting goals and staying focused,” Noelle says. “I want people to understand they should stop focusing on the mistakes they’ve made but rather focus on making progress every single day.”