Measuring Progress via Racing

This week I started another round of Nashville Running Company’s track workout program. Slightly before it started, Lee Wilson asked me if I wanted to measure progress at the start and stop of the program, or to measure progress through races. To me, races are the only measure that matters.

Jack Daniels has that philosophy too:

Don’t introduce higher intensities into your workouts unless you’re certain you’ve moved up in fitness. If you want to train faster, prove you’re fit enough by racing faster first.

It is much easier said than done. I have a tendency to always want to “beat” my target paces. That tendency doesn’t make me faster; it makes me have worse workouts later in the week. It is just a matter of patience.

That chart shows my running improvement over the past two years as measured by races of various distances. If you are not familiar with VO2 Max, it is essentially a measure of the cardiovascular system that correlates to endurance performance. Higher is better.

The story the chart tells is one of rapid improvement. The secondary story seems to be that I can gain speed faster than I gain endurance. The two dips are my two marathons (most of the other measures are half-marathons and 5ks with one each of  1 mile, 5 mile, 10 mile, and 15k. The last measure is actually pretty remarkable since it was a 5k with my dog one week after the marathon – it could have been higher and really hammers home the endurance point.

I don’t know if it is tapering off, or if I still have some gains to make. I have goals for upcoming races, but I need to find the patience to train based on what I have proven, not what I hope to prove. If I added another measure to the chart – miles per week – I think it would be apparent that there are still plenty of gains to be had if I can train consistently and increase mileage over time.

The key to that is patience. (and discipline)

101 days until San Diego!
101 days until RnR San Diego!