Former Mr. XTERRA award winner Craig Vogtsberger is no stranger to charting new courses.
Just last year he became the first physically challenged (PC) division winner of the XTERRA off-road triathlon Pan America Tour. He’s also the most decorated challenged athlete in XTERRA America Tour history, having won an unprecedented nine regional off-road triathlon titles and four USA Championship crowns since 2008.
Not bad for a guy, who, after being crushed between two Army Humvees and suffering massive trauma to his entire body in 2001, was told he’d never do much with his body again.
“I was told I would never do anything again and would just sit in a chair the rest of my life and take medication,” said Vogtsberger. “By 2005, I had enough of not living. I went and watched a local triathlon near Kalamazoo and watched the freedom the athletes had. I knew from that moment I wouldn’t be just sitting anymore.”
Now, with a room full of medals from more than 10 years of racing triathlons around the world, Vogtsberger has his sights set on a new challenge … trail running.
“This year, I wanted a little extra challenge and decided to be the first physically challenged athlete to compete in the XTERRA 21K Trail Run Series in Colorado, at XTERRA Nationals, and hopefully at XTERRA Worlds.”
With a simple email to XTERRA, Vogtsberger had the PC division added to every race in the XTERRA Trail Run Series, and he’s hoping other physically challenged athletes join him on the trail.
Last weekend, Vogtsberger competed in the XTERRA Cheyenne Mountain 24K Trail Run in Colorado Springs. “It was extremely challenging,” he said. “But it was also in a beautiful setting. I started out at a good pace and was able to traverse the terrain with only a few problems the first lap. But the second lap wore me down. After 11 miles, I was just focused on finishing.”
Vogtsberger has a condition called foot drop, caused by his accident, which results in an uneven gait. He wears a device called an Allard Blue Rocker 2.0, which increases stability.
Race director, Victoria Seahorn, was thrilled with Vogtsberger’s performance. “I honestly wasn’t sure if he could handle the course because it’s extremely challenging. We also had 70 mph gusts of wind on race day, which made conditions even more difficult,” she said. “But Craig was fantastic.”
“I was pretty happy to finish my first ever 24K,” admitted Vogtsberger. “I’ve had races where I sprint across the finish feeling great and others where I end up in the medical tent. I never can tell what my body is going to do. All the more reason to train harder for more races!”
Vogtsberger is a stay-at-home dad to three kids (12, 9, and 15 months) so like all parents, he fits in training in when he can. “It might be at 5am or at 8pm at night. I might eat lunch and the little one goes down for a nap and I immediately jump on the bike on the trainer and get in however long I can.”
Next up for the man affectionately known as “V” is the XTERRA Beaver Creek half-marathon in Avon, Colorado on July 16.
“I signed up for four XTERRA half-marathons and hope Worlds will be my fifth,” he said. “I noticed that there hasn’t been a PC runner yet in the 21Ks, so I thought I might be the first!”