There is something supremely Fantastic about a precisely manicured set of sunglasses, particularly when they’re not being used for their intended purpose. Certainly, there are times when circumstance offer no alternative but to actually look through them, but for the most part, it’s a bit pedestrian to use sunglasses for seeing through.
I’ve been obsessed with sunglasses since I was a kid; photos of the Smallest Frank Imaginable feature sunglasses in close proximity, usually perched atop my head of wavy brown hair and rarely anywhere near my eyes. As an athlete, sunglasses have never been far adrift, whether in skiing or cycling, and – in all seriousness – for good reason: eyes are fragile things that should be protected.
Nevertheless, whenever any kind of effort is required, I quickly find myself moving the eyeglasses away from my eyes in an almost claustrophobic panic, and it wasn’t until my most recent ride up Haleakala in my 30th year of sport that the reason for this occurred to me. As athletes, we are hugely dependent on our vision to gauge our effort.
Flying by V-Meter only, our vision offers a constant feedback loop to how near the Man with the Hammer has wandered, and how sharp his blow might be. As we approach sustained effort at or above aerobic threshold, one of the early signs of Diminishing V Returns is the flushing of blood from our cheeks followed closely by the tunneling of our vision. Color is desaturated, then the sides box in a bit, then things get a bit narrow and blurry, and after that the deterioration is not normally recalled in any degree of clarity.
It struck me like a bolt from Merckx’s Crankset: when my vision starts to go, I tear away my sunglasses in order to gauge my effort without the abstraction of the lens. So long as I ride within myself, the shades happily cover my eyes; when I am at my limit, they come off and pop onto the helmet. I used to blame claustrophobia, now I realize it is a matter of gaining an unobstructed view on the V-Meter.
Vive la Vie Velominatus.