Recently, we changed our monthly free event from “Share the Pain” to “Share the CrossFit Kool-Aid” on account of the fact that the general public might be afraid to walk into our gym, let alone try a class or two because of the word “Pain”… However, John Thiel, this month’s CrossFitter of the Month, finds the pain that we in the CrossFit Community experience on a daily basis a motivating factor for returning to the gym every day.
Maybe being born in St. Paul, Minnesota and then consequently growing up in the pumpkin capital of the world, Morton, Illinois, could have been the catalyst for John’s need for punishment. After playing high school baseball and wrestling in this small farming community, John left for Iowa State where he majored in engineering. He continued playing team sports in college, but at the intramural level. His favorite was “broom ball,” a violent game that reminds us why hockey players wear headgear. After college, John moved to St. Louis for work, but soon began competing in triathlons – another “painful” activity for most and one that many thirty-nine year olds consider part of their bucket list before they turn forty. After his stint in St. Louis, John relocated to Pasadena, CA. In all, John spent two glorious years in the Los Angeles area. If he wasn’t in his car driving on all that pavement, you could find him rollerblading on it…Lucky for John, and for us, he was able to escape the smoggy skies of Southern California for the fresh air of Lake Tahoe. In 1992, he moved again for a new job with the South Tahoe Public Utility District. Since 1992, John has continued to expand his job titles. As well as a being STPUD’s Engineering and Contruction Manager, John also built an upscale pool hall with his buddy, Q’s Billiards Club in Reno, NV, and then continued dabbling in architecture by designing and constructing many homes for friends and his family in and around the Tahoe Basin. In all of his spare time, John has raised a family and even received his MBA by taking night classes at UNR for several years. When he’s not “working,” one can find him out on the trails with Leroy, his big, bluenose pitbull, on the water, on the slopes, or in the gym.
John was introduced to our gym through sad circumstances: the Mitch Underhill Memorial. He attended the event at our gym and decided that, like Mitch, he’d make life happen for himself and join STCF. On April 28, 2014, John attended a Sunday Share the Pain with Durga, (Dylan Yuzbick) and after a wicked WOD, John joined up.
John had always been physically active. As well as being an avid mountain biker, hiker, and water sport enthusiast, he had been a member of Evolution Fitness, aka Push Fitness, aka Time Out since relocating to South Lake Tahoe in 1992. He’d been attending three to four group classes per week, but still hadn’t found the right pain quotient worthy of breaking a sweat. He wanted more: more energy, more intensity, more coaching, and more support. Ultimately, he was “looking for more pain.” He found the pain he was looking for at STCF through the people, the friendly yet competitive atmosphere, and the fun of the physical and mental challenge. Every day, John is inspired by those who push themselves a little more and then have the energy to give encouragement to others.
Del, Tom, and Weldon chose John Thiel as this month’s CrossFitter of the Month because he is one of those athletes that John describes as “inspiring.” John continues to push his own limits while encouraging those around him to push theirs. He consistently attends classes and then comes in to work on his “Goats” during Open Gym. He constantly looks for “pain,” because if he’s “not hurting, it’s not worth [his] time.”
Some of John’s Favorite Movements include tire drags, sled pulls, snatches, clean and jerks, bar muscle-ups, and double-unders. In fact, John stated that if he ever quit CrossFit, it would be because of double-unders!
John’s Favorite WODs are some of the most painful: Murph, even though running is not his favorite thing to do anymore, and DT.
Since joining STCF, John has competed in the New Kids in the Box event in 2014. He would like to keep improving and devote more time to CrossFit so that he could become a more competitive athlete. With the support of the coaches and his fellow athletes, John is encouraged to keep working on his “Goats.” He especially appreciates the communal support that is found at our gym. From crazy in-house competitions, like last year’s Open Competition, (John was a member of the Geek Squad), to the day to day grind of WODs and lifts, John doesn’t see himself going anywhere – except up in the world of CrossFit. And hey, if that means he might experience more pain along the way, then that’s really what it’s all about for this month’s CrossFitter of the Month.
This year’s first CrossFitter of the Month is Jennifer Sacoolas. Originally from Sacramento, CA, Jennifer spent the majority of her adult years between two California communities: Santa Cruz and San Francisco. After completing her degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Jennifer landed a marketing job with the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She and her husband Christian relocated back to Santa Cruz because her job allowed her to work remotely. CrossFit suddenly became part of their lives.
Back in 2011, Jen got to experience the first CrossFit Games held at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. Her husband had been hired with CrossFit HQ. He worked on the technology behind CrossFit from 2010-2014. After that first Games experience, Jen thought to herself, “How does this CrossFit thing work?” Luckily, her husband encouraged them to join CrossFit Santa Cruz, one of the first CrossFits in the nation. Trained under the tutelage of coaches Danielle Edmundson and Hollis Molloy, Jen became a skilled athlete during her three years at CFSC. During this time, she completed her Level 1 Trainer Course and started helping with CFSC’s on-ramp program for new people to the CrossFit methodology. Shortly after beginning to train, Jennifer’s husband’s job changed and suddenly he, too could work remotely. Now, he could follow his dream of returning to the mountains.
Jen’s husband’s family had always had a cabin on the West Shore. What better place to return to than Tahoe? However, after a short stint on the west side of the lake, the Sacoolas realized that the commute on Hwy 89 was a difficult one… one that they didn’t really want to settle with. So, after checking out the other communities around the lake, and checking off their list of requirements for a “community” (like a CrossFit box similar to the one they had left in Santa Cruz), Jen and Christian decided to move to the South Shore.
With several CrossFits to choose from, Jennifer walked into South Tahoe CrossFit on a Share the Pain Sunday (now known as Share the Kool-Aid Sunday.) She had tried other gyms but had not found a fit yet. During this particular Sunday, Jennifer was partnered with Sherri Lindner for that WOD. She was so inspired by Sherri, who, as we all know gives it her all 100% of the time, that she decided to join STCF the last week of January 2015, a few weeks before our first gym-wide Open Competition! Jen was quiet and unassuming as a new member of STCF. However, she had no problem jumping in and participating as a Nerd each week on Weldon’s Geek Squad.
Jen was chosen as this year’s first CrossFitter of the Month because of her consistency and her “picture-perfect” form. She continues to improve and is always smiling. You can also find her in a noon mobility class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After interviewing her, we’ve discovered how much of a background in CrossFit she actually had! However, she appears to be the last one to toot her own horn so, we will!!
Jennifer has two favorite movements: the deadlift and the pull-up. She always had such respect for the deadlift because it is a very risky lift if done incorrectly. After properly learning the movement, she was able to lift one and a half times her body weight – and she felt stable and secure! She was hooked!! Her pull-up took longer to develop than the deadllift. She, like many of us, considered the pull-up as elusive and “so far beyond her.” She scaled the movement way back as this is a skill that requires body control, strength as well as the know-how of when to pull. Her coach and co-owner of CrossFit Santa Cruz, Danielle Edmundson literally held her butt and helped her feel the linking of the pull-up – a very unconventional training method, but one that was certainly effective! Coach Danielle helped Jen conquer the pull-up!
Like past CrossFitters of the Month, Jen’s favorite WOD is Fran: 21-15-9 – Thrusters / Pull-ups. She proudly explained that she decided to attempt this WOD as prescribed shortly after she had mastered the pull-up! It took her 29:19 minutes; people kept telling her that it was okay to DNF (Did Not Finish) if she needed. She felt amazing, even though she was DFL (Dead Fucking Last) – the last to finish!
When asked what she looks forward to in the New Year, she emphatically responded, “a bar muscle-up – even if it takes me the whole year!!” She would also like to become more accomplished in her handstand push-ups and ring muscle-ups, but she feels good about that bar muscle-up! She is also looking forward to helping her sister publish her first gluten-free and dairy-free cookbook, “Seeing Sparkles”! We’ll definitely be interested in that here at the STCF!!
It was such a pleasure sitting down with Jennifer and discovering the back story to this month’s CrossFitter of the Month. There was so much that we didn’t know about this woman that we are genuinely excited to share her with you! Now that you know “the rest of the story,” make sure you congratulate her!!