"You think to yourself, 'You've been doing it for years and years, it's natural,'" she said. "Then your brain says, 'You want me to do what? But once you get on your sled and hit that second turn, it's OK. All your panic systems and warning alarms are going off -- that first run is definitely pretty scary."
Gabryszak, who doubles as a Summit County planner, was able to overcome the nerves of the first slide of the competition season to earn a spot on the U.S. World Cup skeleton team for the third time when the team was announced on Nov. 1. She joins reigning World Champion and two-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender as the females on this year's American World Cup team.
Despite sweeping the U.S. selection team races in her return to the sport after a brief retirement, Noelle Pikus-Pace of Orem is not yet qualified to compete on the World Cup circuit according to International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) criteria. According to a release, the rules state that athletes must have competed in five races on four tracks over 24 months. However, the IBSF did grant Pikus-Pace a waiver to compete on the World Cup after competing in only four races on two tracks this season. She will be eligible for the World Cup team after racing in the Park City, Utah and Calgary, Canada North American Cups.
Gabryszak said, after her previous off-seasons as a slider it took a while to get her legs back under her, but after hiring a new coach this summer, her training took a significant spike in activity. Instead of one to two hours training during the summer months, this year she spent two to four hours each day running and lifting.
"I had a completely changed training program this summer and I saw a lot of results from that," she said. "I also worked a lot on my push technique, learning to push on both sides of the sled, which makes me more versatile.
"My previous training program worked well for me and got me to where I was, but I hadn't seen any improvement over the last season, so I kind of plateaud on it. It was time for a change. If there was any more time to gain on the push, this was the time."
By the time Gabryszak is in the middle of her World Cup season, the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, will be only a year away, so if there was a time to take a risk in experimenting with a new training regimen and coach, this season was the time to do it, she said.
"The closer we get to the Olympics," she said, "the pressure goes up."
Gabryszak said her goal this year is to have a "quite a few" top 10 finishes on the World Cup circuit, as well as help the U.S. earn a third skeleton sled on the tour. She said with two female sliders on the World Cup circuit and two on the Intercontinental Cup circuit, Americans must finish near the top of their respective circuits to help the U.S. earn a third sled on the World Cup in the future.
As fate would have it, the second World Cup stop of the 2012-13 season is scheduled for Gabryszak's home hill at the Utah Olympic Park next weekend, following the season-opener this weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y. The women's skeleton heats are scheduled for Friday, Nov. 16, at 9 and 10:30 a.m.
"Unbelievably exciting," she said. "It's where I learned to slide. I won my first regional races there; it's close to my heart and it's where everyone has been so supportive of me. There's definitely a little added pressure, but I expect myself to perform well. I'm getting better at handling that."