Lucy Gossage is not your regular athlete. Both a triathlete and a cancer doctor, Gossage competes in Ironman Triathlon events and duathlons. She has twice been the European duathlon champion and has won multiple Ironman Triathlon events. After finishing her PhD, she took a two-and-a-half year sabbatical to train and race as a full-time triathlete around the world but has recently returned to her role as an oncologist. Here, she offers her advice for tackling your first triathlon and insight into her training and nutrition.
The best advice I can give for tackling your first triathlon is to join a club. It can be a bit nerve wracking turning up the first time but, honestly, everyone will be super friendly. Clubs aren’t just for the uber-competitive and super quick. Sport’s a real leveller, in every sense. In terms of events, GO TRI events are particularly targeted at novices, so are a great way to dip your toes in the triathlon world, begins Lucy Gossage.
When it comes to my training, I don’t do much gym work other than some core and glute work (bodyweight only and I use the TRX). My strength training is targeted at addressing weaknesses and developing a strong core. I do a lot of single-leg exercises, stability exercises on a BOSU ball and core work but I try to mix it up each week for variety.
I also do a fair amount of hill running, over-geared biking and paddle work in the pool, which is specific strength work. I have a Wattbike at home, which I use a lot for time-efficient sessions before work. The amount of bike work I do really varies according to the time of year. I’ll do a long ride (five hours plus) every week, and four rides in total, one of which is usually on the Wattbike.
Eating well around training is vital – refuelling with protein and carbohydrate straight away makes a massive difference. In terms of supplements, I use Xendurance lactic acid buffer, proteins and omega-3, and Biestmilch, all of which really make a difference to my ability to recover.
The transitions in a triathlon are so important. You should make sure you practise getting your wetsuit off! And think about what you’re going to do with bike shoes, run shoes, etc. How will you set everything out in transition? Will you clip your bike shoes onto the bike before the race or will you put them on in transition? Are you going to use elastic laces? Think it through and run it through in slow motion before you race. I always walk through the transition the same way I would when I race, to make sure I know exactly where I’m going. I also recommend finding a landmark, so you know where your bike is. It’s all too easy to forget when you’re flustered!
When you’ve finished your triathlon, recovery is so important. I think, for me, the most important element is getting enough sleep. That’s easier said than done but, sometimes, getting eight hours’ sleep is more important than fitting in an extra early morning swim. I try to foam roll at least twice a week, get a massage regularly and go to yoga when I can. When I can’t manage to fit in a massage, I use the PowerDot electronic muscle stimulator on the sofa, which is a good alternative. I also really enjoy a cold Erdinger Alkoholfrei. It feels so decadent ‘drinking’ after a race and it’s actually enhancing recovery with its isotonic properties. It really does make a huge difference. The week after an Ironman, my motto is “anything goes”. If you fancy it, have it. Your body is in deficit!
I think working as an oncologist makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have the opportunities I do. Whenever I can’t be bothered to train I think of patients I’ve worked with who would love to be outside but can’t and, all of a sudden, training feels like a privilege rather than a chore. When I’m hurting during a race, I remind myself that I’m choosing to make myself hurt. Cancer patients don’t get that choice. Thinking like that helps me to embrace the pain, rather than run away from it.
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