With races around the world on hold, most of us have been left to solo time trialing to satisfy our competitive impulses. Although time trials don’t carry quite the weight of a “real” race, we still want to do our best whenever we line up against the clock. And there is something about a true “test” such as a race or time trial to reveal the best estimate of our actual fitness, rather than trying to guess based of workouts.
The first thing to determine is what is the purpose of the time trial? Is it just an extra hard tempo run or is it something more nuanced? In this Corona pandemic landscape, a time trial might be a literal substitute for a race. Basically, a race without all the fanfare and organization, but you’re still going all out as if it were a competition. In this case, you’re giving it everything you have and trying to run the absolute fastest possible time you can run on that given day. In the case of trail racers, this might not be much different than a typical race, as may events require runners to be self-supported and involve many solitary miles in the wilderness.
Just because there are no races doesn’t mean the time trial needs to be a literal race substitute. Although predicting race fitness from workouts is an inexact science, it doesn’t mean we need to run each and every time trial 100% effort to accurately gauge. There is still value in going CLOSE to 100%, making the time trial somewhere in between a workout and a race. On some level this is semantics, as what Lydiard referred to as “time trials” more likely resembled tempo runs in our current nomenclature, with the instructions to run approximately 3/4ths effort.
Allan Phillips, PT, DPT is owner of Ventana Physiotherapy