Are racing results the best representation of your fitness?
If you want to know your true running capability, is an all-out race the best way to find that limit?
I would argue yes.
There is no substitute for a race against motivated, similarly skilled competitors to understand what you are truly capable of.
However, I would like to add a caveat to this statement.
A race is not always the best place to start.
There are some things you need to understand before you step up to the starting line.
There is one factor that is very important to understand: your "starting line fitness."
If you don't understand your "starting line fitness", you could end up burnt out mid way through the race and be as important to the dynamics of the race as a discarded water cup rolling towards the gutter.
You could not be racing hard enough and end up coasting to the finishing line with gas in the tank.
This unfortunate scenario can happen to experienced runners and newbies.
In fact, a disappointing race is paradoxically even more likely to happen to experienced runners because they are more likely to race at a comfortable consistent effort between races instead of racing to their capability.
So, what is "starting line fitness?"
Starting line fitness is an informed expectation of your performance by using test results / hard workouts as performance indicators of your capability in the weeks leading up to the race.
If you are lacking this understanding of your fitness, you are doomed to either under achieve or push the race too hard and fail mid-race.
You need to truly understand what you are capable of before you step up the start line so you know how hard you can run.
This "starting line fitness" concept will be very important to understand as you get started with Stryd begin to establish your Critical Power.
Critical Power is an indicator of your fitness and tells you what power target you are capable of holding for every race distance from 5K to marathon and beyond.
In summary, race results can be excellent representations of your fitness, but you need to know your capability before the race for that to happen.
A little guidance from Stryd's Critical Power value and some coaching advice from Coach McGee can help get you there.
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