April 2, 2012
Roaring Back: Vince Shimp
By Katie Cartier
After losing his leg, affiliate owner Vince Shimp hit rock bottom.
After losing his leg, affiliate owner Vince Shimp hit rock bottom.

"I had gone from being able to do 28 rounds of Cindy, to a guy who could barely manage 10 good push-ups."


Roaring Fork CrossFit owner Vince Shimp got his 24” box jump during Open Workout 12.3, where his wife, Susanne, his biggest cheerleader for the past 20 years, stood and watched. He says he intentionally did that workout without anyone but his wife because he didn’t think he’d be able to hit the 24” jumps without missing and crashing to the floor. He didn’t miss one jump. Sixty for 60 and not one miss on a 4-and-a-half month post knee surgery on one leg and a prosthetic on the other.  

In early 2007, Shimp began CrossFitting at a gym in Basalt, Colo. He followed the workouts posted on the main site, but the gym closed a few months later. At that time, he had no desire to go to another globo gym because it had been difficult to do CrossFit workouts out of a gym that wasn’t designed for it.

Shimp decided to convert his 400 square foot garage into his very own CrossFit gym. He bought a few pieces of equipment and his friends started coming over to workout with him. It started to grow and soon he had enough equipment to accommodate almost any workout. So he affiliated.  

It wasn’t long after Shimp decided to move to a bigger space. The closest CrossFit affiliate at the time was 150 miles away and Shimp decided it was time to have one in the area.

The gym was almost ready. They were just 3 weeks from opening day. On that day Vince was up on some scaffolding welding a pull-up bar in place when he fell. The fall resulted in a severely fractured calcaneus (heel bone). 

He had surgery to put the heel back together with screws and plates. Several months later he was out of a cast and fitted for a walking boot. Just when things were looking up for Shimp, he received more bad news. He had developed a severe staph infection, which worked its way into the bone.  

Six more surgeries did not rid Shimp of the infection. All it got him was more pain and difficult news for the father of two. “I began to seek out the best foot and ankle orthopedic doctors I could find to see who could help me,” he recalls. “The opinion was the same from the four or five doctors who I spoke with. The infection had done so much damage to the bone that it never healed properly and could not be repaired. All the doctors agreed that if I ever wanted to ski, run, bike, climb or CrossFit again, the only way this would be possible would be with a prosthetic.”

For a man who was always athletic – swimming, baseball, skiing and mountain biking – this news was devastating. After many discussions with his wife, they decided he would have his leg amputated just below the knee.

The months following the amputation were brutal. Shimp was different – physically and emotionally. “I was battling a pretty severe depression, as well as drug addiction after spending two straight years on loads of prescription pain meds as well as lots of other drugs,” he admits. “I hadn't worked out for months, I couldn't and had no desire to. Things had pretty much hit bottom.”

Though even under the most awful of circumstances, Shimp knew that if he wanted to be the best husband, father and gym owner possible, he was going to have to begin the process of healing his body and mind.  He got off all of his meds, started eating well and got back to the gym. “It was tremendously difficult and discouraging at first,” he says. “I had gone from being able to do 28 rounds of Cindy, to a guy who could barely manage 10 good push-ups.”

He attributes much of his healing to CrossFit.  He describes his first workouts back as pathetic, but was able to take steps forward in his progress. He was getting his health back – physically and mentally.

While he has a long way to go before he is back to where he was, he’s more confident. Shimp, unlike half the field who had two legs beneath them, made it through all of the Open Workouts. He put up solid scores--85 burpees on 12.1, 30 snatches on 12.2, 4 rounds and 7 box jumps of 12.3, 150 wall balls and 21 double-unders, and finished the round of "9" on 12.5.

In the face of adversity, with setback after setback, Shimp has managed to get up.


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