Today's performance made me think how useful it is from a career perspective (and to gain perspective in general!) to look at TPL performance over my three running years: 2007, 2008, and 2009.

The TPL system allows me to compare the relative performance between road races of different distances. Currently the system only allows you to cross-check 1 mile, 3k, 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon distances but apart from a 5 miler in 07 and a 12k in 08, these have been the exact distances I've competed on the road and on the track.

Form will fluctuate a bit over the course of a season (from Winter to Winter) due to seasonal demands, specificity of training as well as tiredness and other factors, but if you have a good sample of race times, you should be able to generate a trend line showing whether you are consistently improving or more of a yo-yo.

If you have trained anyway right, you should see a consistent downward trend despite intermittent peaks and valleys along the way (downward because a high TPL is poor and a low TPL is good).

My selection criteria for performances were road or track races or time trials run at full effort. Since I started competing in 2007, I have run 3x 1 mile, 1x 3k, 2x 5k, 2x 10k, 3x 21.1k (half) and 1x 42.2 (marathon) leaving me with 12 performances to work with (9 unfortunately in 2009, and only one in my "lost year of 2008"). The 2008 half-marathon I was pacing Aoife and not actually racing but I decided to leave the result in just to serve as a lonely bridge between 07 and 09.

The Chart
So this is how the true story unfolds:

Overall this is very happy reading, despite the many setbacks, the downward trend is clear and races that could be considered "under-performances" over the last 3 years are not too far from the overall trend.

This does highlight, however, the importance of consistent training. Without my many setbacks (e.g. if I had had more sense and experience), this line would have dropped faster and even more consistently. If you were to analyze for instance Barry Minnock's race results over the last 5 years, you would undoubtedly find a more impressive development (you would probably have seen him start out around TPL 28 and dip down towards TPL 11-12 within a 5 year period).

Something to take from this chart is the TPL at which you "enter" each year: It seems I entered 2007 somewhere above TPL 33, I then entered 2008 as probably a 32 or faster, 2009 I started off as a 29-30 and given today's track performance I look set to enter 2010 as a 25-26. This means, that although its a pity to have been down at 23 and having lost 2-3 steps, its almost inevitable not to enter each new year slightly higher if you are doing things anyway right in training. Great conciliation and comfort can be taken from that interpretation (which is the right interpretation to my mind).

If anyone is interested in having a chart generated, feel free to mail me. All I need is dates, race distance, and time.