By Michelle L. GordonOctober 31, 2006
FORT CARSON, Colo. (Army News Service, Oct. 30, 2006) - The Army once again this year took top honors in the Military Division of the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, Oct. 21.
Most Soldiers consider themselves to be strong, but those chosen to compete this year needed more than physical strength to win. They needed to be Army Strong.
"Everyone shows up physically prepared," said team member Lt. Col. Heidi Grimm. "So going in we knew the most important aspects to focus on were nutrition management, the climate and how we were going to respond to the mental challenges."
Grimm was part of the four-person Army team that participated in the military division of the competition. Every year each service sends a team composed of three men and one woman to the annual event, and even though Grimm was honored to be part of the team, she knew there would be extra pressure to win this year because the Army took top honors last year.
"We had to maintain the team trophy and we knew the Air Force brought a strong team," she said. "We also knew they would probably be our biggest contenders, which they were."
Composed of three events, the triathlon began with a 2.4 mile swim through the Pacific Ocean, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile foot race. Having competed in more than 10 Ironman competitions, Grimm began preparing for the race weeks in advance, setting minimum standards for what she wanted to accomplish each week in order to be successful. However her training could not prepare her for the unexpected.
"Within the first 50 meters of the swim I was kicked in the face and the left side of my goggles broke," Grimm said. "There were 1,700 competitors in the water so it was crowded. I didn't realize I had a gaping hole in my goggles until the next day. I just knew the seal kept breaking and I had to swim another two miles in the ocean with only one eye."
Grimm's broken goggle was not the only misfortune team Army faced during the race. Her teammates had struggles during the bicycle portion.
"[Maj.] Mike [Hagen] had mechanical problems with his wheels and [Maj.] Matt [Lorenz] had two flat tires," she said. "We lost some time, but it's all part of the mental game; and going in you have to tell yourself that something is going to happen to everyone. It's all in how you handle it and soldier on."
Despite their challenges, Grimm attributes team Army's win to teamwork.
"We have a close-knit group with lots of energy and positive reinforcement," she said. "I have a great deal of respect for the guys on my team -- both as Army officers and as my fellow teammates. The fact that we finished first with all of our individual issues is a true testament to the caliber and experience of the athletes on our team."
Even though the 2006 Ironman World Championship may be over, Grimm hasn't stopped training. As a member of the Army World Class Athlete Program, she is currently training for the Olympic trials and hopes to compete in the 2008 summer Olympics.