Experience From - Jay Hodde, TriSloth, Dana Roueche, Carl Krasner, Sue Baker, Nikki Robinson, Greg Heinrichs, Geraldine "Lady G" Wales, Kevin Tiller, Gordon Chace,

Jay Hodde

Those of you who know me realize that I have fairly light skin. For those of you who don't, well. . . I do! N-E-Way, I ran in the Howl at the Moon 8-hr last Saturday, and came away with a sunburn (hurts more than the muscles do!).

The day was in the low 80's and sunny, and the race was run on a 3-mile loop consisting of 1 mile dirt and 2 miles asphalt. There is no shade.

I used Coppertone Sport SPF15 as a sunblock.

It did a good job on all areas EXCEPT where the sun hit me the most directly (top of the shoulders and triceps). My neck, while quite red, isn't too bad, and my face looks sun-free (I wear a hat and sunglasses when I run).

I don't know if my sweat diluted the sunblock to the point where it was inneffective, or if these two areas were hit by the sun more severely than the rest of my arms and back.

My questions: What are your recommendations regarding the best type of sunblock for running ultras?? How do YOU use the stuff (meaning how frequently do you reapply)?

I definitely don't want to end up with skin cancer, so any good suggestions are welcome (and very pertinent with Leadville coming up very shortly). I'm going to ask that you reply to the list, not to me only, because I feel that this is a health issue that should be everyone's concern.


Training in Oklahoma, I've experimented quite a bit with sunscreen. Also, Consumer Reports covered sunscreen in an issue this year or last. It was quite good.

Personally, I find that Vaseline Intensive Care 25 works very well and stays on no matter how wet you get. I apply it before the swim in triathlons and it doesn't come off. Lately I've been using the water babies (vaseline) 30X sunblock. A warning, this stuff doesn't come off in the shower unless you scrub and it's noticeably white when you put it on. It works very well however. One other problem with the "good" sunblocks is they can stain clothes. Since my running gear is permanently stained with orange dust (Oklahoma, eh) I don't particularly care.

Dana Roueche

My advice is simple, go with a sunscreen of SPF 30 and apply it every hour to all exposed skin if possible, or aleast during the mid day hours. I would also suggest wearing a shirt with short sleaves to help protect your shoulders and back of your arms.

The sun at altitude is far more intense than at lower elevations. The reason is there is less atmosphere to filter the harmfull rays. Also, there tends to be less moisture in the air at higher elevations to help with filtering.

Sunglasses are a must at high elevations. The sun can burn the retina's in your eye. Also, after a day in the sun with little or no eye protection, your ability to see at night in low light conditions will be greatly reduced, not good on a 100 mile trail run. Personally, I also wear a cap with a visor to further shade my face and eyes from the sun.

Carl Krasnor

There have been research results published receently which indicate that while sunblock may stop most of the UV wavelengths which cause sunburn, they may not stop those rays which penetrate the cells and cause the cellular damage which leads to cancer. So the jury is still out on whether sunblock reduces cancer risk sufficiently to be adequate protection.

One method of protection is to wear clothing which maximizes protection while still allowing effective cooling. I am very pleased with my Tinley Breeze-Top which is a lightweight, all Cool-Max T-shirt with full fabric shoulders for protection and all mesh below the chest for cooling. This shirt provides at least as much cooling as a singlet and keeps the shoulders protected. I have heard that Tinley has gone abs-up so you might have to find another brand.

Sue Baker

Try Coppertone 45. Works like a charm for me. I have never gotten burned when I have that on, and I have been out all day in the hot sun. Also I apply it once and do not reapply it at all. And this is from a person whose nose (the worst spot) gets red in about 30 minutes of exposure.

Nikki Robinson

The kind I use is Bullfrog -- they have all sorts of SPF's going up to 30 or so. The Bullfrog SPF 18 is what I use. I use this stuff in triathlons, and it doesn't come off in the water, etc. Good stuff. There's a kid's version; the container has a cool frog's head on the top. Just remember -- apply it thoroughly and carefully everywhere and preferably before the start of the event.

Greg Heinrichs

I've found sunblocks with a high SPF (sun protection factor) to be the most effective. Currently, I'm using a generic sunblock with a 30 SPF. According to the label it's formulated for children, but since my pleasure in running is childlike, I assume I'm not misusing the stuff. One application, allegedly, lasts "all day" under normal circumstances, but since long runs probably aren't considered "normal," I reapply it every few hours.

And while I've got your attention, I have a question of my own. I'm about to begin breaking in a pair of Nike Air Max Triax but am concerned about wearing them while trail running, since the air units in the heels are partially exposed. Anybody out there ever "popped" one?

Geraldine "Lady G" Wales

I use Avon Skin-so-soft cream. It works for everything including bug prevention.

Carey Stoneking

I know they're somewhat dorking looking, but Full-length white shirts do the trick! I've also had good luck with a very light long sleeve coolmax, still UV rays can penetrate. Bullfrog brand is highly recommened! I just buy whatever is on sale! Usually water resistant (sweat too).

Kevin Tiller

Here in Australia where the sun is often bright and hot, I am NOT always as careful as I should be. I often end up VERY burnt. However, on a good day I use lots of waterproof SPF15, plus a hat (one of the those saudi arabian wrap-arounds - not just a legionnaires which as very popular).

The best screen is ZINC as it is waterprrof and totally impenetrable, but will make a mess if you rub it. Comes in fluro for the triathletes. I echo the comments about the thinness of the air at altitude - there is a mountain race in the Victorian Alps where I always wear a long-sleved thermal top for the whole day, but the neck / face can get VERY VERY burnt if you are not careful.

Gordon Chace

"My questions: What are your recommendations regarding the best type of sunblock for running ultras?"

For FANS95 24H, I used SPF45 lotion and gave myself three doses during the daytime portion. At sunset I treated myself to the luxury of a soapy sponge-bath (the loop course visits a full-plumbing public toilet). Sure felt good to get rid of that gunk! No sunburn.

Cornbelt96 started cold&cloudy so I waited until the sun came and I reduced my clothing before sunscreening. Again, SPF45. One dosage, applied while running (this was a track race so I could grab the lotion, use, then drop it off again). I got a few sunburn areas because the haste of lotioning-while-running left some open skin. At FANS96 I used a single dosage of SPF30 and that was good enough to prevent sunburn for the entire race (occasional clouds). Forgot the sponge-bath but it didn't seem so necessary without multiple doses.