ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, Feb. 15, 2007) - An officer in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program was selected as the 2006 Amateur Female Triathlete of the Year by "Triathlete" magazine.

Lt. Col. Heidi Grimm, 39, had the best athletic year of her life in the endurance sport that combines swimming, cycling and running. She reported Aug. 16 to WCAP in Fort Carson, Colo., where dozens of Soldiers train with aspirations of making U.S. Olympic and national teams in several sports.

Grimm saluted the Army for giving her the opportunity.

"It's an opportunity of a lifetime and I'm grateful for all of the folks who encouraged me and supported me," she said. "Being at WCAP gives me the resources and the time. My workout sessions last four or five hours a day, split up in a couple of different sessions.

"When you're working your body so hard, the rest and recovery is equally important. That is what I was lacking when I was sitting at the desk as a Deputy G-1 at Fort Lewis."

After winning eight triathlons last year, Grimm posted a personal-best time of 10 hours, 36 minutes, 56 seconds in her fifth Ironman World Championships, a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in Hawaii on Oct. 21. She won her fourth Hawaii Ironman military women's crown, and was seventh among 70 women in the 35-39 age group.

Grimm opened her season May 14 with a victory in the Gulf Coast Half Ironman in Panama City Beach, Fla., where she posted the second-fastest amateur women's time in race history: 4:31:12 for a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run. She said the day was extra special because a lot of friends and family were there to witness one of her best all-time performances.

Grimm followed with a series of victories in June, at the Blue Lake Olympic Triathlon in Troutdale, Ore., and the Five Mile Lake Sprint Triathlon in Federal Way, Wash. She won her fifth women's crown in the Armed Forces Triathlon Championships June 25 on Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, Calif., where she completed the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilmeter run in 1:59:09.

In the Conseil International du Sport Militaire's World Military Triathlon Championships in Satenas, Sweden, Grimm won the senior women's (35-older) crown with a 2:13:34 clocking for the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run.

"I'm on cloud nine," Grimm said after that July 8 race, her second victory in the CISM World Military Championships. "I am getting better with age and loving it."

Grimm, who shared the Army's 2004 Female Athlete of the Year Award with Olympic modern pentathlete Capt. Anita Allen, won July races at the Seafair Triathlon in Seattle and the Shoreline Park Triathlon in Rochester, N.Y., her hometown.

Grimm said she "had the run of my life" Sept. 16 in Excelsior, Minn., where she won the women's division in the Best of the U.S. Amateur Triathlon National Championships. She finished the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run in 2:09:49.

Grimm overcame several challenges that day. Two weeks prior to the event, she discovered a crack in the frame of the trusty bike she'd been riding for six years and was left scrambling for a new one. Naturally, she had mechanical troubles with the untested bike during the race.

The choppy waves on wind-swept Lake Minnetonka were so fierce that several competitors cut the last buoy from the swim course. Grimm, however, was not one of them. She climbed off the bike in sixth or seventh place, thinking "this is almost insurmountable," not knowing how her legs would react for the run. She then ran the 10K in 36:44 to claim the victory.

"I just felt stronger and stronger as the run went on," she said of her most satisfying conquest of a very triumphant year.

"That was my last race as an amateur," added Grimm, who turned pro to begin accumulating points that will help Team USA officials determine rosters for future international competitions.

"To be eligible for the Olympic Trials in 2008 is ultimately the goal. I've had great success over the last few years, but at this point and the level I'm at now, just to focus on training is the critical piece - the hours on the bike and the hours on the run, and the recovery time, too."

After turning pro, Grimm posted third- and fourth-place finishes at the La Paz ITU Pan American Cup on Jan. 21 in Argentina and the Villarica ITU Pan American Cup on Jan. 28 in Chile.

"I'm really happy with my performances down in South America, especially this early in the season," Grimm said. "I'm currently ranked 80th in the world and 10th American female after my first two pro races out of the box. My bike fitness and my run fitness are really at a nice spot for this early in the season, and my swim is feeling stronger every day."

By triathlon standards, Grimm is a late bloomer who hopes to make monumental progress with a year of full-time training. Most triathletes were competitive runners, swimmers or cyclists before making the jump to the three-discipline sport. Grimm's athletic background consisted of equestrian horseback riding and downhill skiing.

"Because I didn't do this as a child and in high school, I am more willing to learn and to work hard to get better and faster," she said. "And I have so much more room for improvement.

You get people who have been doing this for years and years and they'll see seconds of improvement," Grimm explained. "I will be able to realize minutes, and that's my goal."

(Tim Hipps writes for Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Public Affairs.)