“TSD” running: The pacing game

This is a really nerdy running post. If you’re not really into running and really obsessive about running statistics, you may wish to move on. But I hope you’ll hang in there with me…  

With the North Olympic Discovery half marathon less than three weeks away, I’m now doing longer, slower runs and focusing on maintaining a consistent pace over those longer distances. After working so hard to become faster it feels odd now to slow down, so I’ve created a new game to keep myself challenged and interested.

Friends from the Porsche Club or anyone who has ever done a time/speed/distance (TSD) car rally will appreciate the game. I’m setting out on a run of X miles, and I decide that I want to run a steady pace of MM:SS per mile. The object of the game is to get as close as possible to “zeroing” each leg (mile) of the rally (run).

In a TSD rally, scoring is done in minutes and hundredths of minutes. Each hundredth of a minute early OR late arriving at a checkpoint is worth one point. Hence 2 minutes early is 200 points, and 2 minutes late is also worth 200 points. You can’t make up for being late on one leg by being early on the next one. Generally, 5 minutes early/late (500 points) is “maxing” a leg; you can’t get a higher per-leg score than 500. If a rally has 5 legs, you will enter 5 checkpoints and your total score is the sum of the leg scores. [In addition to the requirement of being precisely on time at each checkpoint, in TSD rallies you must follow intentionally confusing route instructions and you don’t know where the checkpoints will be… but for the purposes of this post I’m ignoring those substantial differences.]

My inspiration for the pacing game was a 4-mile run last week. I didn’t set a goal pace, but just ran at a comfortable pace without paying much attention to my watch. I finished at an average pace of 10:39, but I was astonished to see that the difference between my slowest and fastest miles was a mere 2.15 seconds. So I dreamed up a per-mile scoring algorithm similar to the way rally legs are scored. Since my GPS watch records minutes, seconds, and hundredths of a second, I decided that each hundredth of a second would be worth 1 point. Hence 1 second early or late would be worth 100 points up to a maximum 500 points (5 seconds).

Using this algorithm on my 4-mile run and belatedly assigning a goal pace of 10:39,  I had mile scores of 5, 125, 90, and 125. As a seat-of-the-pants TSD rallyist (and a mighty successful one I might add… I have the trophies to prove it), I would have been quite happy with those scores!

Game on!

For my 8-mile run last Sunday, I set a goal pace of 10:55, but it was a beautiful spring day, I was feeling great, and I couldn’t make myself slow down enough.  I maxed (actually “minned”) half the legs and finished at an average 10:52 pace. I felt strong and happy afterwards, so I didn’t feel too bad about beating my goal pace… but I vowed to do better next time!

For today’s shorter 5-mile run, I aimed at 10:45, only maxed (minned) one leg, was nearly perfect on mile 4, and finished at an average 10:42 pace.

I’ll do one short fun run later this week (most likely a Thursday evening beer run), and then I’ll do my final long run on Sunday, two weeks before race day. I want to run the last 11 miles of the half marathon route, which will include all of the killer hills and the final 5 miles along the waterfront.

Now I’m deep in thought, wondering what to set as my goal pace. I have run 10 miles at a 10:16 average pace, but without the hills. I have run 8+ miles of mostly hills at a 10:53 average pace. Both of those runs were hard pushes for me. So can I possibly put the two together? Surely there is a difficulty multiplier — but how large? Dare I dream of 11 miles at an 11:00 pace?

The last thing I want to do now is injure myself — I have been training perfectly up to this point. I’ve consistently met or slightly exceeded my distance goals for each week, while dramatically increasing my speed. Now I just have to put it all together and run a well-planned and well-executed race. I think I should probably set a more modest pace goal for this last long run, which (assuming I meet that goal) should give me the confidence to crank it up just a bit more on race day.

As much as I’ve come to simply love the run, love getting into a groove and watching the mile markers pass, I also truly enjoy playing these mind games with myself. I push myself to improve by setting these zany goals. If I didn’t do that, I’d probably still be plodding along on my treadmill… or I’d have sold the thing at a yard sale by now.

So I’m going to meditate about Sunday for a bit longer, because I want to set a pace goal that is doable, fun, and safe, while still confidence-building. After all, I sense another PR coming, and what will really matter on race day is my final time, not how well I’ve timed each of my miles.

What would you do? Push this last long training run and test the limits, or play it safer now and find out what you’re made of on race day?


Posted on May 15, 2012, in Running and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I, personally, would play it safe and train as planned. You can always push on race day, but I would be really upset to get injured this close to a planned race I really wanted to do. just my .02; ymmv. If you do increase time, I’d only push a wee little bit. 😉

    • That’s just the question! I have a planned distance and route (the last 11 miles of the half marathon course) for Sunday, but not yet a planned pace. I do hear you, however. I’m thinking that “playing it safe” would be aiming for an average pace in the 11:15 range… slower than my recent similar runs but WAY into PR territory if I could extend that for the full 13.1 miles,

      Thanks for your thoughts… I know you are a runner and I value your perspective on this one.


      • And, I know I’m not playing with a full health deck, but my goal is to run consistently. I can’t do that if I’m injured (I have too much down-time anyhow), and before a race, that would drive me nuts. I *always* race better than I train, so I know my race time is going to be faster anyhow.

        I would work and push a little on my sprints, as long as I didn’t feel like it was risking injury. Of course, I always run/train and race to how I feel, only pushing a bit harder during the race. Otherwise, it’s just not work risking injury, imo. Good luck!

      • Your overall running philosophy and goals are similar to mine. What you say makes sense, and I’ll slow down and enjoy it.

  2. Keep up the good work, Lori! And keep us posted!!

    Carlene and Bob

  3. OK, from a total non runner non rallyer here, so take it for what it’s worth. Do whatever on Sunday is going to make you feel best going into the race. Because what you really DON’T want is to mess up the race, right? As long as you don’t do something crazy like aim for a 9:30 pace, and don’t inflict damage, do what feels right on Sunday.

  4. 2 weeks before the race I’d go for an easy run and familiarise yourself with the last 11 miles of the course, learn where you can recover after a killer hill climb and where you need to go easy on the hill because another one is coming up straight after. Forget about timing as you are far more likely to injure yourself than improve your speed in the last 2 weeks before your race! Good luck and enjoy the race.

    • Pete,

      I do know the route fairly well, and I know the last five flat miles like the back of my hand. What I don’t know is whether I’ve trained well enough to do the hills and then be able to maintain a pace for those last miles. I’ve hit the wall there in the two prior years, but I feel a lot stronger this year. Well see! But I promise, no heroics on Sunday. I’ll slow down and enjoy it.


  5. Ok, then do first mile 30 sec slower than intended mile pace and pop a Shot blok 30 min out from the finish (but try them first).

    • Well, you sent me to Google for “Shot Blok.” I’ve never had much success eating anything while running. I know I should try to eat even though my stomach disagrees — I really shouldn’t go that far on nothing but water. Perhaps I’ll head down to my local running store today and see what they’ve got.

      Thanks for the suggestion about going slower at the start as well. That is a lesson I need to keep trying to learn!!

  6. Now I know why I’m not a runner…I am not strong in math! LOL! That will be my new excuse! You really have invested the best of mental energy to support your hard work, Lori, and you’re doing great. How great to have so much input from others who share your passion. I’m sure you’ll continue to have good results, and I’ll be eager to hear about them. Debra

    • Well, you don’t HAVE to do math, or even own a watch, in order to run. No excuses! 😉

      But given that I’m a gadget geek and a data geek, playing these math games with myself does add to my running enjoyment — and does keep me focused on improvement. And I do appreciate your cheerleading…


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