You want to be 100% fit and ready for your important races. Sometimes that is enough; sometimes it is not. Humans are creatures of habit. In racing, this means we typically compete in largely the same races year after year. This is how we choose to benchmark our performances, our fitness and our improvement one racing season to the next. On the surface, this seems to make sense, but the logic is flawed.
"I just ran a 10k and my time was so slow compared to what I did last July on the same course." What was race day like last July compared to this July? If it was 85 degrees last summer but 100 this time around, your result will naturally be slower this year given the same level of fitness. And, not by just a few seconds; it could be a handful of minutes or more depending on how you cope with the heat. For example, I can cope with high heat for an hour or two. But, I've pushed myself over the edge often enough where beyond that I break down fairly quickly. My heat tolerance is quite weak compared to what it used to be. So, I do my best to minimize the health risk when I need to go out in the heat of summer. For example, I will start a long ride at 5am so I'm only dealing with the rising temps in the closing 1-2 hours. If it's a short ride, I don't worry so much.
Back to racing. Sure, you can compare the same race year-to-year to possibly - possibly - gauge your fitness. But even then your performance is affected by weather conditions, and not just the heat. One year's Super Bowl Shuffle 5k might be greeted with temps in the 50s while the next year it could be 20 and snowing. You shouldn't expect a better or even similar result in less favorable conditions -- hot or cold, windy or calm -- but how many of us refuse to cut ourselves that slack? Not too many of us.
Another trap athletes fall into is comparing early-season tune-up race results to those of key races when they are supposed to be 100% ready. In this type of situation, maybe this will help you get through the winter and spring. Think of your training during this period as a slow and gradual progression that holds you over until it is time to turn the screws and get down to business. While it is true that you gain the majority of your fitness during the initial 3-5 months after a prolonged break from training (4+ weeks), you can still view your improvement curve as one that rises gradually now and then spikes in the weeks approaching your most important race(s). That spike is resultant from the addition of race-specific training that sharpens your fitness, smooths the rough edges and brings everything in your program together to a nice, solid peak performance.
Now, that being said, I don't mean that you should simply dawdle along until next June. You can't afford to shoot your plan full of holes. But your resolve can be more relaxed and you can cut yourself some slack at this point. If you are too focused now, then you run the risk of hitting the brick wall called Emotional Burnout just about the time you should be getting excited about what you're trying to accomplish. Bad news when this happens.
Training is the means to the end. If you're training faster than ever before in February, be careful. You may not be leaving yourself anywhere to go but down (meaning slower) when it really comes time to kick things into a higher gear next summer.
So, cut yourself some slack! Training is a means to an end, not the be all, end all. You're trying to do the best you can and, typically, that's enough. Sometimes it is not; and the factors which impact our ability to perform are sometimes beyond our control.