Six-time Ironman champion Lucy Gossage recently caught up with us to talk all things training, providing an insight into the sacrifices made by an athlete whilst seeming to prove nothing is impossible!
Beginning her training with a sabbatical from medicine, she has now returned to practice as an oncologist alongside competing in Ironmans around the world. Finishing 1st and 3rd in her two Ironmans of 2017, Lucy continues to demonstrate her sporting prowess all over the world.
Q: How did you get started with your training and what made you want to compete in such a challenging sport?
Lucy: Honestly, it was a drunken dare after a long-term relationship ended that made me sign up for my first Ironman! Some medical students I was teaching at the time had told me about this thing called Ironman. It sounded impossible. But I guess the seemingly impossible always attracts me.
One night out after a few drinks I announced I would enter an Ironman if I was still single by the New Year. On New Year’s Eve I met someone who had done one and told me how amazing it was, so I figured that was fate and signed up for my first one!
What motivates you to continue progressing?
I turned professional after getting some good results as an age-grouper because I wanted to see how good I could get.
It’s never been about winning – just getting the best out of myself. Last year I broke my collar-bone 8 weeks before the world championships in Kona. Coming back from that to finish 9th in the World Champs was enough for me to feel like I’ve discovered how good I can be. It might not have been my best race ever but overcoming the psychological and physical issues after the collar-bone was enough for me to feel that I’d achieved all I wanted to from triathlon.
Right now I work 3 days a week as an oncology doctor, but I’m too much in love with triathlon to give it up just yet! It’s less about achieving now and more about passion for the sport and lifestyle associated with it.
Do you have a strict nutrition plan? How important is it to your training and success?
In races I have a very strict plan for nutrition. I make a spreadsheet and work out how much I need to eat and drink every hour, along with electrolyte and caffeine intake. I race on a combination of gels, energy drinks and Mars bars.
Outside of races I have a generally healthy diet but allow myself treats if I want them. I need a lot of calories and get lots of them from Meridian Foods Nut Butters which are a great source of healthy calories and fats and very convenient for snacks at work.
The hardest thing is being prepared each night before work. I make breakfast (soak oats, chia seeds, nuts, berries, X-endurance protein powder, nut butter and almond milk) and lunch (usually leftovers from that night’s dinner) before work and have learnt which Tupperware boxes don’t leak if I run into work!
How often do you train, and how does it fit around your other priorities like work, friends and family?
I train pretty much every day. On work days I train before and after work. I try to do the hard sessions before work as I can’t rely on having enough energy to do them after work! On non-work days I fit in my longer sessions. Some days I’ll train up to 7 hours.
Professional Ironman is somewhat all encompassing and doesn’t leave too much time for a social life! Ironically, it’s somewhat easier in the summer as I train less when I’m racing which makes my work days less stressful.
How would you advise someone getting started with Ironman training?
Firstly, make sure that deep down you really want to do it. If you’re not doing it for the right reasons the sacrifices will always feel too much. Secondly, join a tri club. Joining with others is so much more fun. You can share the pain, learn from each other and make training fun rather than a slog.
What has been the biggest challenge or fear you’ve faced this year?
Moving cities, finding somewhere to live, buying some work clothes and starting work after a 2.5 year break, all within 2 weeks of getting back from the world champs in Hawaii!
What do you love most about competing?
The support from everyone watching.
What do you like to do to relax after a tough race or training session?
I really enjoy a cold Erdinger Alkoholfrei especially at lunch in the summer. It feels so decadent ‘drinking’ at lunch but actually it’s just enhancing recovery. In the evening not much beats steak, chips and a good Rioja with friends and family.