It's that time of year, kids!  Baseline testing up the wazoo to figure out "where you're at".  

Have many of you done these?  I hate them.  If you never have, they're basically a variety of efforts over a variety of distances to figure out "where you are" so that you can then decide "where you're going".

As an example, a common baseline test for running is the 30 minutes all out effort.  Run all out for 30 minutes (an oxymoron isn't it), recording and taking your average heart rate over the last 20 minutes.  That heart rate number allows you to set your "training zones" for the next few weeks.  That in turn allows you set training paces and predict race times.  As you improve, you do the baseline again, and increase your paces accordingly.  Science amiright?

I'm sure you've all (by now) read my post about baselining with pushups.  That's all fun and all, but for real endurance numbers/levels I have three baselines that I use:

1. the FTP test on Trainer Road.  This is a monster of a test done over about an hour.  I usually throw up.  It sucks, but it give me incredibly valuable information.  I have yet to do this (no account of me lending out my bike) but will be in short order.  This is my most important baseline test and the one I rely on to set most of my training parameters.

2.  The 500m freestyle for time test.  Just swim 500m for time, easy.  This tells me about my swim endurance (duh) but more specifically about my body position and technique as I swim, because the muscles that hurt at the end should be the right ones (core and back) and not the wrong ones (shoulders).

3.  The "big ass" hill test, where I run up this big ass hill that's up the road from me.  It's a seriously big hill.  This is mostly for ego.

2 of the 3 I completed this weekend; the swim and the hill.  And I'm very pleased to say that I have never, ever, this early in the season performed as well as I did on these tests on Sunday.  I'm thrilled.

The swim:  I conquered the swim in 9m35s.  Not fast, but definitely not slow.  At an average pace of 1:59/100m I am already set up to make some very positive gains in my swim this year.  For comparison, the first time I did this test some two years ago I think I turned in an over 13 minute time, and this time last year I was nearly 11 minutes.

The hill:  I ran up the entire hill on the first try!  "Big deal" you may say.  But trust me, this is a monster hill.  In the past, I've only made it up without walking at the very peak of my fitness.  Sunday, I smoked the entire thing and kept going.  I'm very happy about that.

So, 2 out of 3 say I'm starting this season stronger and fitter than I ever have before.  FTP in a few weeks will really tell the tale.  I'd better get that bucket ready....