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Winnisquam guidance counselor takes part in Iron Man Triathlon

WRHS guidance counselor Lisa Ransom is shown in action on her bicycle during the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii last month, and later hamming it up for the camera with her medal. Ransom placed in the top two in her age bracket in both Florida and New York in 2011, which double-qualified her for the elite international event. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
November 22, 2011
TILTON — If at first you don't you compete, take some swimming lessons, strengthen your cycling and running skills then keep on "Tri-ing" until you make it to the top.

Winnisquam Regional High School guidance counselor Lisa Ransom did this fall, when she competed in the renowned World Championship Iron Man Triathlon in Hawaii.

Even though Ransom grew up along the seacoast, she was not a swimmer, but did have a passion for running. Her decision to learn how to swim came as an adult when she was inspired by a student who had had a near death experience in the water.

"His senior project was to do a triathlon for the Make-A-Wish foundation. I was his mentor for the project and, watching him get back in the water after what he went through, I thought, 'Get your butt in the water and learn how to swim,'" Ransom said.

She took on the challenge of training to complete a triathlon herself. At first, she was "scared to death," but videos and books, and a lot of time in the water, got her past those fears.

An Iron triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 12-mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2-mile run. A Half Iron competition is just that — half those distances, which is still no easy feat. In order to participate, Ransom kept working on her swimming skills, kept biking and running and hired a coach to get her into the "Tri" mode. It wasn't long before she began competition with a half iron event.

"I got serious about (triathlon competition) pretty quickly, and thought, 'Wow, I might be pretty good at this after all.' I was really enjoying it," said Ransom.

Since those early days of training, not all that long ago, Ransom has seen the world. Triathlons have taken her all across the United States, to parts of Europe, and as far away as Australia. Pulling up to a start line with professional athletes from around the world has been amazing, Ransom said, and she is humbled to be a high school guidance councilor from New Hampshire taking part in such large international events.

"I never thought that in my 40's, I'd be doing things like this. These athletes are so incredibly fit, sponsored up and have the best equipment, and here I am among them," she said.

But Ransom has earned her right to compete with the best.

In order to qualify for the World Championship Iron Man Triathlon, an athlete must place in the top two for their age bracket in a qualifying triathlon during the year. Not one to leave a trace of doubt in anyone's mind, Ransom qualified with a top finish not once, but twice during competitions in Florida and Lake Placid, N.Y. for 2011.

"That was really the pinnacle for me. I thought I'd maybe qualify some day, when I got up into the next age bracket; not now. I was so honored when I made it this year," said Ransom.

She is also most grateful for the support of the staff, students and administration of the Winnisquam School District, allowing her to take time off in early October for a week in Hawaii and the championship race. Not only did they take on the burdens of her job while she was gone, they sent her off in style. On the final day of Spirit Week, just before her departure, she arrived at school to find students and staff outfitted in Hawaiian shirts, leis and temporary flower tattoos for what they declared as "Lisa Ransom Day."

"That was just the coolest. I couldn't believe it. Tammy (WRSD superintendent) and Ronna (WRHS principal) and everyone here have been so supportive. I'm very lucky," she said.

The strong winds of Kona, Hawaii were one of many challenges she met during the Ironman championship. Black lava fields lined the land course, generating waves of extreme heat, and the water was a complete distraction at times during the swim.

"Dolphins swim along with you and there were all these sea turtles and beautiful 'Finding Nemo' type fish below. I kept thinking, one more stroke then I'll look at them," Ransom said.

Besides the crystal clear water full of marine life there were also hordes of scuba divers, watching the competitors and filming the race. A few times, she was startled to look down and see a person directly below her as she swam. It was all just a small part of an experience she will never forget.

After the competition a man named Bruce, himself a 16-year veteran of the Ironman, asked what she learned, not how she finished. Ransom said she respected the wisdom of his question as the journey was truly an educational experience. She learned about climatic and geographic challenges of the region. A slight gap in her shirt taught her the importance of sunscreen and covering her skin when the small of her back became badly blistered. Ransom had also made a dietary change while training for the competition, which she now believes might not have been the best idea.

"I ended up with some stomach problems from the heat and nutrition changes, so my time wasn't what I had hoped it would be," said Ransom.

But in the end, it isn't about where one finishes in an Ironman World Championship. Everyone's medal looks the same. What matters is that someone worked hard enough, "tri-ed" harder each time and then qualified and completed one of the world's toughest athletic challenges. For that alone, Ransom is a true champion.

The 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship Triathlon will be televised Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. on NBC.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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