Today I did a 10K tempo run. It was my first tempo run in little while and I wasn't sure what pace was appropriate. I just went by feel, trying to be honest and run at the fastest pace I felt I could sustain for one hour with a gun to my head. (If you run faster in a tempo workout, it's not a tempo workout. Remember that.) I wound up averaging 5:48 per mile, which was slightly better than I might have predicted, had I been nerd enough to try and predict my average pace for the workout. (Actually, I'm plenty nerd enough; I just happened not to do it.)
During the run I spontaneously made use of a mental trick that I use in many of my faster workouts. The name of the trick is "this is so slow." See, when running at my tempo pace or faster, my body usually tells me, through kinesthetic feedback to my brain, "this is fast (and I don't like it)." But if I just use my eyes to select landmarks ahead of me and observe the rate at which I close upon them, and compare this observation with how things look when I'm driving my car or even riding my bike--well, then, even my fastest runs seem pretty slow. And when I consciously focus my attention on my vision in this way, instead of on how my body feels, I relax a bit and the effort doesn't seem as hard. It really works.
Today I also exercised my "this is so slow" trick in a more unusual way. I thought about Haile Gebrselassie. More specifically, I thought about how Geb ran the first 10K of his marathon world record attempt earlier today (Bubai time) in 28:39. That's 4:36 per mile, folks. I thought, "If that lung on pogo sticks can run 4:36 per mile for the first 10K of a marathon http://community.active.com/blogs/MattFitzgerald/2008/01/19/this-is-so-slow/sure, he bonked later, but that changes nothing, then I **** well better feel comfortable running a 10K tempo workout at 5:48 per mile." Despite the fact that this internal monologue might qualify as "beating myself up," it actually worked just as well as comparing my perception of movement on foot against that on wheels.