"Expectations for the team are pretty high," U.S. Coach Tuffy Latour said. "We've had a motto this year: 'You don't have to be perfect to be fast.' And the other thing that we've been really focusing on is one corner at a time and let the results happen for themselves. That's what we're going to do at the Olympic Games."
As part of that fun, Pikus-Pace's entire family will be in Sochi for her first race Feb. 13. She is staying with her husband and kids at a local hotel during most of the Games, but will return to the athletes' village during her competition, according to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
She is one of only three mothers on the U.S. Olympic team this year, along with curlers Allison Pottinger and Erika Brown. There are 19 men on the team with children, a dichotomy that experts say reflects the difficult choices many women face when juggling the demands of an arduous career and a young family.
"For any athlete to reach an elite level of competition, it requires hours and hours of work over many years. That takes a toll on your personal life, in general," said Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. "To have that kind of demand on your time and to be a mother, it can be incredibly difficult. Men traditionally have been able to do that more easily because of persistent gender roles."
Indeed, Pikus-Pace's life is demanding even during her so-called off-season. On the average day, she gets up at 5:30 a.m. to run sprints up and down her subdivision sidewalk while her family is still sleeping. She comes back inside an hour later and lifts weights in the basement until the kids wake up and come find her.
On many mornings, they sit on the stairs, eating Corn Pops and watching her finish her workout. Traycen usually comes and sits on his mom's stomach, becoming a 35-pound weight that increases the intensity of her sit-up exercises.
"Then I go upstairs, get some breakfast, get Lacee ready for school, change a poopy diaper, shower, go back to the school to pick Lacee up, make some lunch for the kids, clean the house, change a poopy diaper, do some laundry, get dinner ready, change a poopy diaper, go over some sliding runs, look at some sled equipment, put the kids to bed and then do it all again the next day," she said.
Pikus-Pace realizes she leads a vastly different life than most U.S. Olympians. For starters, she probably uses the word "poopy" more than all of her teammates combined. She probably drives more carpools, too.
She may have taken a rarely traveled road to Sochi, but she says she can't imagine not taking her family along for the ride.
"As an athlete, everything we do is very selfish. We have to focus on ourselves. We have to focus on when we need to train, on when we need to eat. As a mom, it's the opposite. I have to worry about my kids," she says. "It's just been a change in my perspective on life and it has made me so grateful."