“So, you tried to gouge your eye out in the middle of the night?” Jake asked two days before our scheduled eighteen-mile run.
“Uh, kinda. Yeah.”
Technically, I wasn’t trying to gouge my eye out. A scratchy contact lens woke me up at 2:00 a.m. Being an expert contact lens wearer—I’ve been wearing contacts for twenty years—I stuck my finger in my eye to retrieve it. Only, I didn’t retrieve it. In my half-awakeness, I pushed my contact up beneath my eyelid, folding the contact in half in the process.
“Oww… Oh, man.”
I climbed out of bed and headed for the bathroom mirror to remedy the situation. Perhaps I was tired, perhaps it was the suddenness of the bright light, but I could not, for the life of me, get my contact out. I couldn’t even see it. I could feel it folded up and further back on my eyeball than it should have been, but two decades of contact lens retrieval experience fell short in this crisis. After ten painful yet futile minutes, I resigned myself to the discomfort, assuming the contact would eventually work its way out, and went back to bed.
Less than an hour later, I was back in the bathroom, pushing on my eyelid and reaching into my eye socket and rolling my eyeball around in circles trying to liberate the lens. No luck. I went back to bed.
An hour later, I was back in front of the bathroom mirror.
My failed recovery attempts went on every hour for the rest of the night—and into the next morning. By 11:00 a.m., I couldn’t take it any longer. My eye was swollen and wouldn’t stop watering. My pillow had been drenched in tears. My nose was running nonstop. And the pain—it was like someone had deposited a mini cheese grater beneath my eyelid. I made an emergency trip to my eye doctor, even though I was terrified of the possible methods of retrieval. I pictured giant eyelid clamps and optical tweezers (do they even have those?) and toothpicks and needle-nosed pliers and screwdrivers and jackhammers and very nearly vomited in the car.
Do you want this stupid contact out of your eye or not? I reasoned with myself.
Only, there was no contact.
“There is no contact in your eye. But you do have an open abrasion in your cornea.”
“I swear… It felt just like my contact was folded. I could feel it.”
“It’s really common for people to think they have a contact stuck in their eye when really it’s an abrasion. I’ve seen people who have literally ripped off the cornea trying to get out what they thought was a contact.”
For the second time that morning, I nearly vomited.
“Some people have said the pain is worse than childbirth.” She reached for a prescription pad and started jotting down antidotes for my childbirth eye pain. “You will probably be very uncomfortable for the next twenty-four hours, but the symptoms should decrease dramatically after that.” She handed me two bottles of magic eye drops. “Do you have glasses?”
“Okay. No contacts for at least a week.”
“Can I wear a contact in my good eye when I run?”
And that day, by doctor’s orders, I was able to check off two items on my bucket list: 1) use the phrase “my good eye” in a true sentence and 2) go on a run while wearing an eyepatch.
In case you were wondering, the second item isn’t as fun as it sounds.
The next day, I had a speed workout. I had planned on running mile repeats—four at 5K pace—but after a three-mile warm-up outside, the pain was just too severe. My bad eye couldn’t take the sunlight. I headed to the basement, where the only light came from the TV in front of the treadmill. I turned on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and began my one-eyed workout.
Okay, mile repeats. You’ve got this, I thought as the belt cranked up speed. 5K pace. You could run this pace all day. (I often lie to myself.)
And I did have it, at least for the first mile repeat. I was drenched in sweat before I even started. Though the coolness of the basement was a respite from the heat, my hilly warm-up in 90-degree temperatures ensured I would sweat my way through the workout, basement or not. Which was fine. Except I had lost the drawstring in the particular pair of running shorts I was wearing. And the shorts, soaked in sweat, were heavy. And there was no drawstring to hold them up.
“Gah. Stay up…” I said halfway through the first mile, rolling the band of the shorts to make the fit snugger. “There…”
I continued the workout. Run. Pull up shorts. Roll shorts. Run. Pull up shorts. Roll Shorts. Run. Pull up shorts. Tuck shorts into underwear. Roll shorts some more. Run. Pull up shorts.
“This isn’t working!” I exclaimed to Guy Fieri. I was tired and frustrated and one-eyed, and my shorts kept falling down. There was no way I could finish the workout like this.
“Fine. If this is how it’s gonna be…”
And with that, I stepped off the treadmill, threw my shorts on the floor, and did the rest of the workout in my underwear. And an eyepatch.
First, let me say that there was no one else in the house, much less in the basement, at the time of my workout. Second, I can totally see why elite runners wear “runderwear” or bun-huggers. It’s very liberating.
I’m happy to report that I finished my workout at goal pace and did not fall off the treadmill. Even more, the next day, Jake, being the ridiculously awesome running buddy that he is, brought his own eyepatch to Forest Park for our eighteen-mile run. And he wore it.
If that doesn’t scream friendship, I don’t know what does.
And speaking of friends—and running mile repeats—two days later, a good friend and fellow RunnaBabez teammate, Lisa, clocked a 4:43 in a mile road race. A 4:43, folks. And she’s not even training to race the mile.
Isn’t running… interesting? One person can burn up the roads at 4:43 pace, and the other can run mile repeats on a treadmill in a dark basement while wearing underwear and an eyepatch and watching the FOOD Network. It’s crazy.
Or as they say in the pirate world—because I’m an expert at pretending to be a pirate now, too—“It’s so biz-aaaaargh.”
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.