Monday Musing #7

Monday Musing #7

Did you know that when you turn your palms up to the stars, you absorb their light? The photons emitting from an unfathomable distance away seep into your skin, and the starlight becomes a part of you.

I love the idea that we can soak up the stars. When I am running through the night, often solo, hunting for an ultra-finish, the power of the sky and the universe propels me forward. All I have to do is face my palms up to the stars.

We tell ourselves anything to get to the finish line.

Yes, I am absolutely romanticizing starlight. How can I not?! But if the stars we see at night make their way to us, then it's hard to ignore how the rays of our own star, our sun, might reach us.

In 2017, I ran with Jim Walmsley through the Grand Canyon, chasing my second Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempt. It was hot. Like really hot. And I wasn't even twenty miles into my forty-two-mile day when I started puking my guts out.

We turned around, knowing that the FKT escaped me on that scorching day, and took our time getting back to the South Rim. We jumped in at Rainbow Falls and enjoyed Arnold-Palmers at Phantom Ranch. It was a different kind of day than I'd hoped for, but still a day I will never forget.

I was heaving with heat stroke, sitting on a rock with the head between my legs halfway up the North Rim, when Jim hit me with words that stuck. He told me to put on his sunglasses.

"I swear," Jim said, "anytime I am hot and put on sunglasses, I immediately feel cooler."

Those words always stuck with me because I wondered if I was missing out on some performance advantage on hot days by not tolerating how I felt sunglasses distorted my vision. I briefly put Jim's sunglasses on and immediately tore them off, extra sensitive to how most eyewear distorted my vision. These were nice sunglasses, too, one of the top household brands in sports eyewear that I am sure cost a pretty penny. But still, I couldn't see out of the lenses, so I thought I was the problem.

Jim's words came to me during a company-wide Method Seven meeting last week where Barry, our in-house genius who remains a total enigma (think Tony Stark level of passion and brilliance but with the humble ability to communicate of your greatest professor), on all things light, lenses, and vision. Barry described how UV rays heat up the fluid behind your eyes during prolonged exposure. Of course you are going to feel hotter if the fluid behind your eyes heats up! It would only make sense that you feel cooler if that was prevented. The reason Jim may feel cooler when his eyes are protected made suddenly made sense.

I am struck. Just the idea of that fluid, so close to my brain, boiling behind my eyes is enough to make me a convert! To think of the hundreds of miles I spent under the blazing alpine sunshine, no hat, no sunglasses, at altitude! What have I done?! On the other hand, did I have a choice when there wasn't a lens out there that offered protection without straining my vision?

I am still grasping to understand why I can see through Method Seven's TRAIL26 lens when I have never been able to tolerate running in sunglasses before. From what I have gathered, the key differences are superior UV protection, how we use and understand polarized light, notch filters for blue light and peripheral vision, and a coating on the lens to inhibit reflection off the face. I am sure that is not even half of it, yet it is a mouth full!

I could hear the passion behind Barry's voice during his presentation because we build our lenses based on what we know about the eyes and how they interact with light. Most sunglasses companies don't do that, and we know that based on a series of tests that detect how much and what kind of light their lenses let in. More on that, when I understand it better. My knowledge is sorely lacking. But what Barry did emphasize is that the main priority for most sunglasses companies is to eliminate squinting—even at the cost of distorting vision. Even if the lens still lets in a harmful amount of UV light.

I have learned a lot working with Method Seven and clearly still have a long way to go until I can speak to the science, not just the experience of our TRAIL26 lenses. And I want you to learn with me because protecting our eyes is vital in more ways than the blatantly obvious ones. As I learn, I will be sharing in my Musings because the best way to understand is to speak to it. And because taking ownership of protecting ourselves is empowering. Because seeing clearly is freeing. And because we deserve it.