One nice thing about the long-slow-distance training schedule is that when others seem to have peaked and are going backwards, I am still on the plateau. This is a good thing.
An even better thing is a glimmer of hope. A seed (hopefully) of what might lie ahead in my fitness.
Sure, there are plenty of data to look at, and plenty of ways to analyze a race result. Of course, when you have to race against superior competition, then it might not be helpful to say "gee, I was fourth against these guys and a few months ago, on the same course I was sixth". Or perhaps if you are racing against inferior competition the same sort of thing might happen (I have yet to experience this).
But one thing doesn't lie: power. Speed lies. It doesn't take into account how much you drafted, or which direction the wind was coming from, or how the race tactics played out. Your heart rate lies. It's a lying sonofabitch. You might have drank one less bottle of water than you should, or maybe you were agitated, or maybe everyone is really going harder than they were last time and your form is better, so you might feel like it's not an improvement. And so on.
So. the numbers. Last night was pretty good in that regard. Not because of the typical killer pace on the first and longest climb. That one is always hard and always ends up thinning the field.
The number that I liked the most wasn't even one of the numbers I got on the second, third and fourth climbs (higher than the last time we raced this course, by 30 watts)
The number that I really liked was my sprint number. I am not a natural sprinter. Some people are just born with it. There are folks who, in their first year of racing, put down huge watts in the sprint. I was not one of them. I don't expect to ever put down huge watts (although I am certain that the numbers will improve over the long haul).
A telling number is how well your "end of the race" max number compares with your "fresh and rested at the beginning of a practice sprint" number. It compared quite favorably this time. I'm liking that!
So the form is coming around, I hope.