Contact Lenses


Experience From - Debbie Reno , Mike Erickson , Martin Miller , Will Brown , Lady G , Jan Ryerse , Cathy Tibbetts (Optometrist) , Deb Reno ,

Debbie Reno

I seem to remember this topic from not long ago, but, alas! I can't recall what was recommended.. so, what do ya'll do about contact lenses during the latter hours of a hundred miler, when you've already had them on for more than a day? I hate that scrungy eye feeling, but I have never run with glasses on - should I plan on needing to remove the lenses at some time during the run?

Mike Erickson

I wear Acuview extended wear lenses. I'll put in a new pair either the morning-of or the day-before the race so that they're fresh. I always carry a small bottle of LensLube in my pack (Preventitive medicine: In two dozen ultras I've never used it!). I stash spare lenses in my drop bags, and my crew carries spares, as well as regular glasses just in case. If this seems like overkill, realize that my eyes were at last count 20/400 and declining. If I lose a lens, I might as well have lost a leg; I can't even focus on my own navel. In any case, never had a problem with my contacts. Lots of other problems, but never the eyes.

Martin Miller

I've worn contacts continuously through all of my ultras... including the last Gibson Ranch 48-hour. I'd suggest carrying a small bottle of rewetting solution eye drops. If you start getting that crusty, 'scrungy' feeling, throw in a couple of drops to clear it up.

Will Brown

I've been racing for years with contacts and have done about 15 ultras, including 5 100's wearing them. I use Accuvue disposable extended wear lenses. I wear them for 6 days straight, including sleeping with them, so I never have that problem of feeling they need to come out after 24 hours. I do carry drops in my race pack in case they need a squirt or if a piece of something gets in them.

I don't know what kind of lenses you wear, but a real important thing to consider is what to do if you lose one during a race. I had gotten complacent because in 20 years of running with contacts I had only once lost a lens on a training run. Last year at Angeles Crest I lost the right one about an hour into the race while it was still dark. During the climb up Wright Mountain the trail turned a corner and a strong gust of wind hit me.

I felt the lens move in my right eye and then I looked down at my flashlight beam. It was gone. That was the distance component of my monovision prescription, which works well for me. I had no backup in my pack or drop bags. They were with my wife who was staying in a motel in Wrightwood with no telephones. I would have had to get an aid station to call the Wrightwood Police to go find her and try to have her meet me at an accessible aid station. She was not familiar with the course, and a visit from the Police while I was racing would have scared the devil out of her.

With no other options available, I kept running to see if by any chance I could finish with a severe handicap. Well, I took a bad spill into a pile of rocks going downhill hard, because I wasn't seeing the trail detail well. It took 15 minutes at the next aid station to patch me up enough to continue. That slowed me down even further, and I began to lose time to the cutoffs.

I retired at 42 miles after deciding that it would be monumental stupidity to run in the dark on a dangerous trail with defective vision. I'm going to continue to race with contacts (I hate glasses), but I'll have backups (and a small mirror to install them) in my pack and in drop bags. I've also got a new prescription with lenses that are slightly larger than before. That should help prevent losing one to a gust of wind. I also have a pair of Bolle' wrap around sunglasses that I'll use on a course like AC that has a lot of open mountainous trail.

Lady G

I run with extended wear contacts. I should - note the word should - take them off every evening and then get rid of them every two weeks. I have worn them all through the night on a 24 hour run comfortable by keeping my little bottle of saline solution handy - just in case. Only once can I ever remember having to use it.

Jan Ryerse

I've worn my contacts for the duration of the 4 100s I've run and never had a problem except for some brief discomfort when I remove them - they seem to stick to the eyeballs after being in all day and all night.That however goes away in a minute or two and there are no lasting negative effects so far as I know. But I wear the really thin Accuvue lenses - hard lenses or thicker film lenses might be a different issue.

I do put a spare pair of lenses in a drop bag just in case I lose one or something. Also you can get those small single use packets of saline which I sometimes put in my torso pack in case I need to rinse a contact or wet the eyes - but I've never had to go for the spare pair of contacts of use the saline.

Cathy Tibbetts (Optometrist)

The type of lens material and design varies in soft lenses. Some people will find certain lenses won't dry out as quickly on their eyes as others. It depends on the compatability of your tear chemistry with the lens chemistry

Around the office I wear whatever happens to be on the shelf. However when I am running an ultra, some brands are definitely better than others. Finding the best lens for your eyes is unfortunately a process of trial and error.

The humidity of where the race is makes a difference. Also, if you get dehydrated it can conceivably cause your eyes to be drier. And, if you're taking allergy meds to dry out your sinuses they will also dry out your eyes.

If your lenses tend to start feeling dry at the end of the day, talk to your eye care professional about other options.

During the race:

  1. Carry spares.
  2. Carry lens lubricants.
  3. Make sure your glasses are accessible.

Deb Reno

Well, after all the many very helpful answers to my query, I think I know what I'll do at Vermont! I will: