Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Look closely, you'll see luck in my eyes.

So one of my greatest annoyances at swim practice is not being able to see the pace clock. Yes, it's true: although the clock is giant, with its big old analog face there on the wall, not more than 10 feet away, I can't see it.

Part of this is because some genius designed the pace clock so that the minute hand, which no one uses for anything, nice and big and visible from a great distance. Then the aforementioned genius made the second hand, the only hand anyone ever looks for, nice and thin. Thanks, genius.

But the other reason is that my vision is BAD. I'm near-sighted and I have increasing astygmatism in both eyes, especially my left. I used to wear contacts before the astygmatism got bad, but before long the nice cheap lenses just didn't work anymore, adn I decided I would rather be able to see well, even if I had to wear glasses all the time.

So for several years--maybe 5 or 6--I've only worn glasses. I even have prescription sunglasses, which, you may recall, saved my butt when I was in Italy last summer and the left arm fell off my regular glasses.

But back to the point: the last time I did an open water swim, I forgot that I no longer wore contacts. If you are an open-water swimmer, you know that one of the great challenges of such a race is spotting the buoys efficiently, and so staying more or less on course. The trick is to learn to spot the buoys while you breathe, so you can more or less not break your stride--I mean your stroke--to allign yourself. (I personally do not recommend the method of simply drafting off someone else and hoping they know where they are going. In my experience, they do not.)

So you can imagine my surprise and dismay when I realized that, thanks to my contact-free eyes, I could not see any of the buoys, even if I came to a dead stop. And then you may sympathise with me as I paddled directionless around Lake Hartwell, hoping I might find a buoy. This might not have been so bad were it not a race, and were it not a 5000-meter race. Or, for me, perhaps a 6000-meter race.

But enough of the self-pity. I had pretty much just gotten used to this as something that would make my swimming life tricky. I try for the wall lane when I'm swimming alone, so I can be closer to the clock, and during masters practice I'd come to rely on the kindness of strangers and teammates to tell me when the interval had come around. If someone I'm training with wants me to help with their stroke, I run and get my glasses. And at meets I just wear my glasses between events, tucking the little arms behind my ears under my cap. Looks dorky, but it works.

I've been thinking about swimming again in that open-water meet, though, and about the fact I can't buy cheap sunglasses and expect to see out of them, and I decided to try the contacts again. Turns out the technology has improved quite a bit, and the astygmatic lenses are a lot cheaper than they used to be, and supposed to be easier to use.

Today, my friends, I am wearing for the first day my new test pair of lenses.

I had forgotten how much clearer the world is through contacts. Sure, my glasses were great, and they're easy-on easy-off. But as I was driving home today, I could see all the little individual leaves on the trees from the road. I had to be careful not to drive off the road looking at how different trees have different shaped leaves. And as is always the case with a new prescription, or a switch from glasses to contacts, my depth perception is a little wacky. Driving along in my 1993 Honda Civic, I felt so much closer to the ground than before.

So tomorrow morning will be the big test. Will I be able to get the things in my tired eyes at 5 a.m.? And then will I be able to read the pace clock?

Stay tuned.


Tim said...

I love my astigmatic lenses. I've seen better with them the last two years than I did the preceding 10.

NCMarcus said...

I stopped wearing my astigmatic hard lenses last year because my eyes were too dry (lack of sleep...). Are you trying out soft or hard lenses?

Isis said...

These are soft lenses--I guess they are silicone? Anyway, they don't feel dramatically different from my old soft lenses.