I am sitting here today thinking about what to write about running this week and wonder "IF" anyone else cares "IF" they are actually getting better as a runner.
Guessing that most people would say that when they go into a race and compare it to a previous race, it will indicate improvement or not?! I do not think so since, if it is not the right day (same as the last time if you are running the same course) OR a different course, then a comparison of races is usually a bad way to tell if you are getting better as a runner! PLUS you usually do not race on a frequent enough basis to get a good handle on any improvement.
In my opinion, there are a couple of ways to monitor your progress.
#1 Wear a Heart Rate monitor and run a standard route every 2, 3 or 4 weeks. You can run the route with the same Heart Rate all the time, and "IF" you are improving, your time for that route will go down.
#2 You can run that same route always at the same speed and let your HR measure the average for your constant speed, hence the average should drop if you are improving
SO... no matter how fast you can do those intervals and how good you feel on a particular day, there is no way to accurately measure your running improvement unless you use some definitive method as above.
I would also suggest that you should record those runs and compare the results, because you may be "OFF" on one of the measurement runs, which will skew your results. "OFF" means that you may have eaten too much before a test run, so your HR is higher because your heart is pumping blood to your stomach for digestion or you may have a bug or a cold which will affect your HR. Plotting your results every 2 or 3 weeks should give you a good indication of your overall direction and it will also tell you "IF" that training program you bought into is really working (assuming that you have been following it!!!!)
On my Polar watch and I believe on a number of Garmin watches, they have a VO2 calculator which can also be a indication of your advancement however any one reading is not a direction - so use caution and look for an overall trend over a 4 - 6 week period.
Everyone has to advocate for themselves. Just because a coach gives you a training plan, does not mean that you will automatically get better. Test yourself on an ongoing basis and evaluate. Talk to your coach if you do not see improvement.
Hope this all makes sense - of course, I have assumed that you want to get better - If you are just running for fun and or exercise - then NO PROBLEM - just run PLUS if you do not like wearing a HR Monitor, you can train without one and then only wear one during the test run
Dick for FOF