Planet Sun's Race Day Suncare Plan for Ironman World Championships

(V:10 Oct, 2014)

Congratulations on making the journey to the Ironman World Championships! The Hawaiian Sun is both beautiful and brutal, unleashing some of the highest UV radiation levels on Earth. Typically the UV Index levels are Extreme in Kona in October. The last thing you need to worry about now is DNFing because of the Sun, or spending the remainder of your time in Paradise in your hotel room with the worst sunburn of your life. Here is a suncare plan to keep you going long and strong on AliÕi Drive. Kick Ass and go Protected!

A few key points and techniques, up front

  • Become familiar with the UV Index and know what it is on race day. The UV Index is essentially a forecast of the intensity of Ultraviolet radiation, with necessary precautions. We have a widget on the front of our website that gives you the daily UV index based on any zip code.

  • Sunscreen works best and is most effective when applied to dry, clean skin.

  • Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide based sunscreens are your best choice for a performance sunscreen. These ingredients are insoluble, thus perform better in the water and while sweating compared to chemical/organic based sunscreens. However, if you try to apply a Zinc or Titanium sunscreen onto wet skin, the sunscreen will typically glide over the moisture and won't adhere adequately to the skin. Lastly, Zinc Oxide is the only single sunscreen active ingredient (allowed in the USA) that provides Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB protection.

  • SPF 30 is as good as it gets, no need for anything higher. Reapply Sunscreen every 2 hours. Also, there is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. The highest rating achievable now is Water Resistant - 80 minutes, so you should strive to reapply every 2 hours.

  • Use a face specific sunscreen for your face. Most, if not all body sunscreens, will eventually run into your eyes once you start sweating or get into the water. The majority of face sunscreens that are effective are typically wax based, which helps prevent migration or creeping into the eyes. If all you have is body sunscreen, apply it to your face - below the eyes, and wear a hat.

  • Remember your lips! If you don't have lip balm, most face sunscreens work well on the lips too.

  • Sunscreen storage options on your bike and on the run (other than saddle bags/pockets): In the good old days, we used to slap a bunch of Vaseline under our bike seat for body lube on the go. You can consider doing the same with some body sunscreen - for sunscreen on go. We have three great techniques for wax based/solid face sunscreens and lip balm. Rub in a generous pallet of the product on the top of your hand- and all you have to do is swipe your hand over your face and/or lips as you are blazing on the bike or run. If you are wearing gloves, put the pallet up a bit higher on your forearm. Another great technique for face sunscreen that Mike Ferreira came up with is to score or scratch off a pallet of the product on (underneath) your aero bars, where you can access it quickly and safely on the move. You can also apply a pallet of the stuff on the underside of the brim on your hat for use while on the run.

  • Sunscreen soaked sponges are great! Soak one side in sunscreen, leave the other side clean to wipe sweat and moisturizer off before slathering it on, then flip-er over and get it on! The large carwash sized sponges are the best. Put it in a baggie.

  • Sunscreen should not be the only component of your plan. Wear a hat, UV protective clothing and sunglasses, and of course, stay hydrated. We know you understand the criticality of proper hydration, but it is also a necessary component of suncare.

  • UV Protective Clothing specs. UV Protective clothing is rated in UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor), not SPF. UPF 50+ is the highest rating achievable/labeled. With respect to color: Darker colors naturally offer more UV protection, but will get a bit warmer in the sun than lighter colored clothing. Light to white colors provide a bit less protection than dark colors, but will be cooler in the sun. However, you still want to ensure the clothing is UV rated/tagged.

  • Wear Cycling Gloves. Not only for comfort, but also for sun protection for the hands. Wear them on the run too.

  • Head/Scalp Protection on the bike and run. Helmet designers get big kudos for designing bike helmets with incredible ventilation these days, but that also translates into UV penetration/exposure to the scalp. If you are follicly challenged (bald) or even with a good head of hair, wear a UV beanie, head wrap, etc under your helmet. Aero helmets are great for saving some time on your bike split, but the cone at the end of the helmet also offers some shading/protection for your neck. On the run, ditch the visor and wear a hat. The preferred hat for us is a Legionnaire's style hat (ball cap with a neck drape), and there are even designs with drapes that wrap around much of the face. And oh yes, make sure you hat has a dark colored under-brim - this will prevent reflection onto to your face.

  • Make sure your race support crew and cheerleaders are practicing good suncare. You know the deal, but your support crew and fans need to stay protected too! UV blocking Umbrellas are the way to go for your peeps-lightweight, easy to pack and great protection!

  • Don't blow your suncare plan after the race. Shower off, re-hydrate, refuel, reapply and seek shade for post-race celebrations. We see a lot of sun damage occurring after events, while folks are celebrating - often in the sun, half-naked, dehydrated and enjoying adult beverages.

The Plan

Race Bag/special needs bag suncare essentials: Pack Sunscreen (body and face), lip balm, sunglasses, hat, towel(s), any other UV protective clothing (UV sleeves, shirt, leggings, gloves, beanies). Also, sunscreen soaked sponges in baggies.


  • Sunscreen Application #1 You have two options for your first application: the night before race day, or early on race day morning. This is largely based on when you will shower. *We prefer and highly recommend the night before. Put on a light coat on your clean and dry body, avoiding areas that will be body marked. If you wait to shower until race day morning - put on your first light coat a few hours before you head to the race.

  • Sunscreen Application #2 Just after body marking, get it on again and go heavy in application. Pay particular attention to shoulders, lats and scapula and neck areas as well as to you lower back (most people wearing a 2 piece race kit get that crazy crescent shaped burn above waistline on lower back). Get it on at least 20-30 mins before race start.

    If you are wearing a long sleeve shirt on the bike/run, even better - and Good for you!

  • Nail down Transition Sunscreen Plan: If possible, identify a sunscreen support person to slather on sunscreen at Transition(s), and identify a location for them to meet you to do so, as you are blazing by. Give them sunscreen (on sponge) and a towel. The sunscreen soaked sponge technique works best here, as your applicator can slather it on you quick as you are blazing by
    Another option is to position sunscreen at your transition area and do best to reapply yourself - it might be so chaotic that you miss or lose sight of your applicator person.

  • Gear prep before race: Refer back to the techniques we previously discussed:
    • *On bike: slather some underneath bike saddle, pallet of face sunscreen on aero bars.
    • *On body. A pallet of face sunscreen/lip balm on the top of your hand or underneath hat.
    • *If you rather pack a tube/sticks in shirt pocket, bottle cage, etc-go for it.

During Race

  • At T1 If possible, slap on a bit more sunscreen on shoulder, lat area, or you can rely solely on your sunscreen support person ***Also, if you haven't already, rub a quick pallet of the face sunscreen to the top of your hand. If you are wearing gloves, put a pallet on your forearm. AND/OR, get your UV protective clothing on! Remember your sunglasses/Sunnies.

  • On the Bike. We know where you will be physically and mentally, but do your best to reapply every 2 hours, remembering some of the techniques we provided you. If you can reapply at aid/special needs stations-great! Don't forget about your lips!

  • T2 Same process as T1

  • On the Run Same approach you used for the bike course, but remember your hat-and if you can, run with your cycling gloves.

Post Race

Shower off, re-hydrate, refuel, reapply and seek shade for post-race shenanigans. Ensure that your support crew and fans do the same. For a post sun moisturizer, we are big fans of Shea butter and Hawaiian Kukui nut oil. At this point, you should be looking incredibly pretty for the podiums! To download a PDF version of the raceday plan, CLICK HERE

Congrats and ALOHA!

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