Last week I lined up at the start of a 25 mile time-trial listening to my friends Neill and Keith come out with a list of reasons why they weren’t going to do well that day – Neill had a bit of a cold and was feeling “fatigued”, while Keith’s bike had started playing up on the ride over to the race. For my part I chipped in with the fact that my legs were sore after running in the British Masters relays the day before.
What this conversation was of course was a master class in the art of making excuses.The facts of the matter were that Neill didn’t have the slightest hint of a cold, there was naff all wrong with Keith’s bike, and the race I had done the day before was only 5km.
However while each of us knew deep down that the others were full of crap, none of us could prove it. Our excuses had been carefully selected so as to be vague, credible and non-visible and were delivered with expert timing so as to prepare the way for failure rather than leave us in the position of having to come out with what sounded like post-race whingeing.
Had we been honest we’d have said things like “I haven’t done any training”, or “I can’t be arsed with this” however instead we each showed off our world-class excuse-making skills, acquired over many years of trying to blag our way out of rubbish results, in a bid to take the shine off the ugly triumphalism the winner of our private three-way battle would indulge in.
In these days of social media exhibitionism, making excuses is one of the most important disciplines in triathlon and they are a vital part of your pre-race preparations. For me they are way more important than transitions because I need a good excuse far more often than I need to find my bike on a rack. In fact I know some triathletes who put way far more effort into explaining why they failed in 140 characters or less than they do into their running.
Below then, for your education, are a list of fool-proof excuses which you can use, culled from the many I have heard (and perhaps used) over the years. Please note them in your training diaries to wheel out should you ever feel the need to explain to your friends and family how, despite all your training and self-sacrifice you were still rubbish:
1 "I didn’t taper for it / I just did it as training for my main race” – a triathletes staple, allowing us to fall back on our multisport prowess to mask our failure to excel in single-discipline sports.
2 "I’m carrying an injury (which I have not previously mentioned but which is now magically flaring up)” – Always keep the precise location vague, referring instead to pain in a large but crucial area like your back or hamstrings.
3 "I am feeling fatigued” - always use “fatigued” rather than “tired” as it sounds more professional and more like you are knackered through effort than laziness.
4 "Race organisers used an energy drink I’d never used before and it upset my stomach” - this implies that during the race you’ve ended up experiencing more back-door action than B&Q on a bank holiday rather than just had a case of the burps.
5 "The swim, bike or run leg was a bit long. Everyone’s times were slower” – almost impossible for anyone to check, which they won’t because they don’t really care.
6 "There were loads of people drafting but the referees kept singling me out and warning me so I just sat up” – this works especially well in overseas races where you can imply that scheming foreigners have conspired against you in revenge for Agincourt or Waterloo.
7 "The weather was much windier than last year which slowed me down” – Again impossible to check. You could claim it was hotter, wetter or colder but windy weather is the one that makes you sound the hardest, whereas being a bit cold or wet lead to one of those tiresome “I thought you triathletes were supposed to be tough” conversations.
8 "I got kicked in the swim / goggles knocked off” – but luckily I don’t appear to have suffered any visible damage except for this tiny red mark on my nose which may or may not be goggle-rub.
9 "My bike gears kept skipping” – which has now miraculously cured itself. Make sure you make any claim of mechanical problems as temporary and vague as possible, and steer clear of punctures or chains-off unless you really have one, otherwise you may have to get a bit a grime on your hands lest you be exposed as a fibber.
10 “I have spent so much time helping/coaching others I’ve not had time to do any training” – not one I’ve ever used as I’m too self-centred, but I did hear someone I know use this and I’d describe the help he gave others more as meddling than coaching.
11 “I have avulsed my tibialis” - I once heard myself use this expression which, as well as making me sound like an astonishing knob, just meant I had a small and painless lump on the side of my leg which I used as an excuse for a crap 10km. If you are going to be specific about an “injury”, use medical words to suggest you have seen a physio. Don’t do what a triathlete of my acquaintance once did after a GB race when she excused her DNF by claiming to have “popped a rib” which we both knew was absolute tripe because she said this while scoffing a bun instead of grimacing while she breathed.
12 “I ran out of energy gels on the run” – which is actually an admission of incompetence rather than an excuse but which you may be able to hide with a little light-heartedness such as my recent claim after a TT that “I tried one of those coffee enemas, but I wish someone had told me you’re supposed to take it out of the jar first.”
For more pearls of wisdom from Martyn check out: