There's no "quit" in Klawitter
Lukus Klawitter comes from a big running family.
"Both my brothers ran at Division I schools, my parents run, and even my grandparents run," said Klawitter. "It's something that's very important to us."
So it was especially devastating when, as a college sophomore, his doctor told him he would never run again.
Klawitter, who currently lives in Alamosa, Colorado, is from Hutchinson, Minnesota, which is a small town about an hour from Minneapolis. He was a track and cross-country standout in high school and ran for Minnesota State Moorhead until an achilles injury and foot problems stopped him in his tracks.
"I tried everything," remembers Klawitter. "I took time off, I wore a cast, I saw surgeons and specialists and had a ton of tests run."
After the doctor told him his running career was finished, Klawitter stopped trying to fix his foot, but he didn't let his disappointment stop his love of movement.
"I became a cross-training warrior. I went to the gym and got into strength training and got on my bike."
After undergrad, Klawitter went to Adams State and earned his master's degree in exercise physiology. The Colorado winters were mild after Minnesota and he began competing in long-distance mountain bike races.
"Around that same time, I started doing research on plant-based diets because they were supposed to reduce inflammation and promote muscle healing. I noticed the knee injury I had was going away more quickly on the new eating plan and my achilles pain went away as well. It became a no-brainer to continue that lifestyle."
Klawitter explained that "plant-based" is a less strict form of a vegan diet.
"Like I'm going to have Christmas cookies made with butter during the holidays," he said. "And if someone serves me a salad with a little cheese on it, I'm not going to send it back. I'm not like that."
Klawitter was enjoying being injury-free and back into competition, even though it was on two wheels instead of two feet.
"Then in the spring of 2016, a friend of mine competed in XTERRA and told me about it. I know how to run and I was getting pretty good at mountain biking. I figured all I had to do was teach myself how to swim."
In his first year racing XTERRA, Klawitter had mechanical issues that kept him off the podium, but he still finished fourth in his 25-29 age group at XTERRA Beaver Creek. The experience and training paid off the following year, however, and in 2017 Klawitter went all the way to the XTERRA World Championship.
The combination of Klawitter's clean diet, training plan, and resilient personality weren't all that led to his success 2017. He also enlisted the help of Lesley Paterson of Braveheart Coaching and the 2017 XTERRA Pan Am Champ.
"Everything I know about the sport of XTERRA I attribute to her," said Klawitter. "She was the perfect coach for me."
"I was out for about eight weeks but I swam every day," said Klawitter. "I got back on the bike about six weeks after being in a boot and I started running about a month before Pan Am."
At the XTERRA World Championship in October, Klawitter finished 11th in his age group, behind XTERRA Oak Mountain Champ Humberto Rivera and a strong contingent of European athletes.
He wants to get even faster this year and will be competing in XTERRA Aspen Valley, XTERRA Cameron Park (which doubles as the 2018 Off-Road National Championship), XTERRA Lory, XTERRA Beaver Creek, XTERRA Fruita, and the XTERRA Pan Am Championship.
"I want to defend my win at Pan Am and podium in my age group at Worlds," said Klawitter. "Long term, my goal is to move up and compete in the pro rankings."
For the Christmas holidays, Klawitter - who is already a professor at Adams State - went home to Minnesota where he experienced another sort of victory.
"About four years ago, when I started mountain biking and plant-based eating, my brothers and I went on a run together. Now, it's become an annual tradition."
Klawitter is too nice to want to make anyone wrong. But it might have been very satisfying to know that the doctor who told him his racing career was over was way off the mark.