How to use SPF in an Ironman

September 19, 2016

With my first Ironman World Championship just around the corner, I thought it was appropriate that I share my tips for using SPF on race day.  Many people gloss over SPF or choose not to attempt it because it seems difficult, but thanks to my extremely sun sensitive skin this was a detail that I simply could not afford to overlook.  I suppose I write this post with a hint of bias as the owner of skincare company, but I mostly write this as an individual who loves triathlon and I think I've figured out a way to seamlessly integrate SPF into my race day. I hope that what someone will take away from this is that you can use SPF on race day, it’s easy and it just might save your life.  Here are my tips on shielding your skin:


Leading into race day

Do not get burned.  Be smart about covering up in the days leading into a race, you don’t want to damage your skin causing your body to have to work at repairing that damage.  Protect yourself by wearing sunscreen, getting your training done earlier in the morning, cover up, and staying hydrated. 

Do not apply sunscreen the night before hoping that will create some sort of base for the next day. SPF starts to expire the second you apply it. So if you apply it the night before the sun protection effects are long gone by the time the gun goes the next morning. 




Race Day


  • Apply sunscreen as close to the start as possible.  Use a Ziploc bag if you’re worried about the sunscreen getting on your hands.  Or if you have a friend at the start line that isn’t racing, have them apply it for you. 

  • Apply a good thick layer of lip protectant with SPF right before the start. 



  • The highest water resistance rating that the FDA provides is 80min, and most sport sunscreens are of this standard, if yours isn’t get one that is.   I highly recommend reapplying sunscreen in T1.  This comes with it’s challenges because your skin is wet from the swim.  This is why I highly recommend covering up on the bike.

  • Ironman does provide sunscreen in transition so you can use it there. I personally put Endurance Shield in a Ziploc bag, turn it inside out and apply.  This way you done get any on your hands before the bike portion of the race. 


  • Wear a sleeved suit with some sort of fabric with UPF protection on your shoulders/ arms. 

    • A one-piece sleeved suit is really the way to go from an Ironman.  Most athletes choose to wear it un-zipped with the top half of the suit folded down underneath their swim skin.  Then when you exit the swim you pull down the top half of your swim skin, and pull up your sleeved suit as your running to get your bike gear bag. 

    • There are also other options like arm sleeves that can also help protect your skin on the bike.  Brent McMahon chose to wear them last year and then he removed them for the run. 

    • Triflare made me a sleeved suit for Ironman racing this year; here is why I love it. 

      • The fabric has a UPF rating of 50, yet the fabric is so light and cool- I can actually feel a breeze through the fabric!

      • It’s faster.  During my time at the WIN TUNNEL at Specialized, I learned that my sleeved suit is faster than my suit without sleeves.  That’s reason enough alone to wear it!

      • Pockets in the back to comfortably store calories on the bike and run. 

      • Easily unzips for potty stops.

      • No underarm chafing.  I have really sensitive, thin skin.  The sleeved suit protects my lats and underarms from chaffing against each other. 

  • Wear sunglasses, your eyes can get burnt too!  My favorite are Oakley Radar EV Path.

  • I store a lip protectant on my bike and reapply a couple times. I got a horrible burn on my bottom lip after Ironman Texas so this is something I’ve chosen to do. 


  • Most likely you’ve just gone hours without reapplying sunscreen.  You need to find the time to do this now. It’ll help prevent you from becoming overheated on the run, and at a race like Kona we all know how important this is!  Here’s how I get it done:

    • In my run gear bag I put another Ziploc bag with Endurance Shield squirted inside of it.  I shove it down the front of my suit and apply it once I’m settled into the run.  Then I’m moving and applying at the same time costing you almost no time.  You do need to stop for a quick moment to do your legs.  Then ditch the baggie at an aid station. 


  • If you choose to wear a sleeved suit, it will continue to protect you on the run but be sure to reapply to exposed areas.  I always put an additional bit of sunscreen in my run special needs bag just in case I start to feel my skin burning again. 

  • Wear a hat or a visor to keep the sun off your face and forehead. Don't forget about your scalp! A hat is the easiest to protect your scalp from getting burned.  

  • Wear sunglasses.  I definitely recommend putting a fresh pair in T2 as you will have probably sweated all over the pair you wore on the bike. 

  • I store a lip protectant in my Nathan race belt and I reapply 3-4 times on the run. 


No matter which sunscreen you choose to use on race day, be sure it’s checks the items on this list:

  1. Non-comdogenic

    1. This means it allows your skin to breathe!  This is so important in a hot race.  This is probably the number one reason I hear athletes choosing not to wear sunscreen, and there are many products out there are non-comdogenic.

  2. Sweat/ Water Resistant

    1. For obvious reasons this is imperative at a race like Kona.  Your sunscreen needs to stay put!!


If sunscreen is not your thing, cover up!  Covering up may be a better option for you than reapplying sunscreen if you have a high sweat rate, as reapplying sunscreen may not be as affective for you in the hot, humid conditions of Kona. 

I hope I’ve been able to provide a few tips on how to shield your skin in an Ironman.  Be sure to test out any product before racing with it. 


If you’d like to try Endurance Shield sunscreen, use code ‘KONA2016’ at to get 25% off your order.  Coupon code valid through September 30, 2016 and excludes 16oz SPF.

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