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Day in the Life of Oncologist and Ironman Triathlete Lucy Gossage
Lucy is an oncologist and 11-times Ironman champion, calling herself an ‘accidental pro triathlete’ having entered her first Ironman as a dare. We caught up with her in partnership with Erdinger Alkoholfrei to find out more about her work as a doctor and to ask what mantra she lives by.

What is your job?

I’m an oncologist and professional triathlete. At work I treat and provide medical care for people with cancer. Lots of people think it must be depressing but it’s actually very life affirming. I work 3 (long!) days a week with the odd on call thrown in as an extra.

It’s tricky combining the two but in some ways they are quite complimentary. A day in the hospital is mentally stimulating but physically not too tiring. A training day is the complete opposite!

I think having two passions in my life keeps triathlon fun and it makes it easy for me to keep enjoying it.

I was a full time athlete for a couple of years but it always felt a very selfish pursuit to me. I think I am probably happier now I’m working again. I like to feel I’m doing something useful with my life. I actively look forward to both my workdays and my training days – when I was just training the weeks could get quite long. Plus, working with people living with cancer makes me appreciate how lucky I am. It’s easy to take the small things for granted.

Work helps remind me that life is for living.

Having said that my life is super-busy and sometimes I cram too much into it. This year has been tough because I’ve just had my final oncology exams. Finding an extra 4-6 hours a week to revise since January has been challenging. But right now I’m finding ways to link my two careers, which is exciting. I’m setting up a website www.cancerfit.me with some friends, providing resources regarding exercise for people living with and beyond cancer and am piloting a ‘5km your way, Move Against Cancer’ programme in Nottingham where we are trying to encourage staff and patients to take part in the local Parkrun once a month. I thrive on being busy so it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

But sometimes I need to remind myself to take a day off.

On a workday I’m generally up at 5.30 to train before work. I’m often stuck in the hospital until after 7 at night so make sure the hard stuff is done in the morning. That way, if I need to miss the evening session before work because I’m too tired it’s not an issue. Training days are a bit different. I’ll generally have 2 big volume days a week where I may train for 5-6 hours and I make sure I have at least one day a week where I don’t set an alarm. I usually train at least once a day.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me is getting nutrition sorted. The hospital has minimal catering so if I don’t make breakfast and lunch I’m stuck with a panini or chocolate which isn’t ideal for an athlete. I absolutely hate having to prepare tupperware meals each evening but it’s essential. My standard work breakfast is overnight oats with nut butter, protein powder, chia seeds and berries. For lunch I generally take leftovers from the night before – roasted vegetables, chicken and couscous is a standard.

What are the best / worst aspects of your job?

The best bit about my job is getting to know patients and their families. Oncologists are in a very privileged situation – we meet people at a tough time in their lives but that gives us the opportunity to form very strong relationships.

The hardest part is telling someone, or their family, that their treatment has stopped working. That never gets any easier.

Your biggest achievement as a triathlete?

What’s my biggest achievement as a triathlete? That’s hard to say. Probably coming 9th at the world champs 8 weeks after breaking my collar-bone and 2 weeks before going back to work. After the bike crash I didn’t think I’d even make the start line. To finish 9th was beyond my wildest dreams.

What’s your next challenge?

My next big challenge is Patagonman in December: an iron distance race in remote Patagonia. I can’t wait!

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How and when do you enjoy your Erdinger?

My favourite time to have Erdinger is on a sunny afternoon after a hard bike ride. It always feels so decadent having a beer in the afternoon, even though I know it’s not alcoholic!

How do you unwind after work?

Generally by watching something on Netflix or reading a book. I’m often not home until 9 so there generally isn’t much time to do more than cook dinner, prepare my meals for the next day and crash out on the sofa for a bit.

How do you prepare for the week on a Sunday?

Not very well! I guess my main thing is making sure I have a full fridge, as I know otherwise the week will definitely go badly!

What mantra do you live by?

It’s better to try and to fail than to ask ‘what if’?

And ‘ you don’t have to be the best to be proud, but you do have to try’.

For more from Lucy see her website.

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