It was easy to notice as I stared into the mirror after the Sunday morning run, At least, that's what Suzanne said.
Thankfully, I didn't have the "reverse-raccoon look," probably because of the amber lens sunglasses on my face during the daylight hours of walking and bicycling. But from the chin up, and to a lesser degree from my biceps to the distal end of my arms, and from the "typical" hem of my running shorts to my ankle there was no doubt I had definitely "got some sun."
The folks who know enough about Suzanne and me know we're often 180 degrees of separation from each other when it comes to snacking, training feedback, medicine and -- most especially -- sun exposure. She's a complete heliophobe, the result of too many tanning booth sessions in her youth; I'm more selective in what I want protected from the rays.
Training in the Florida Keys permitted the two of us to see the entire spectrum of visitors to (and residents of) a tropical climate, from the pasty white ("pre-lobsterized") of the first-day visitor to the leathery visage of the long-term denizen, and every state of tan in between. Not every local in the Keys is leather-skinned, as we quickly noticed from our guesthouse hosts, Steve and Kayla Kessler.
Steve, every time we saw him out of doors during the daylight hours, looked like -- in his words -- a Mexican gardener, wearing a large, floppy hat and a balaclava-like neck covering. Steve uses three types of protection in his ongoing battle against overexposure to UV radiation and subsequent risk of (another) skin cancer. Steve spends a good amount of time on his fishing boat, so it's a no-brainer that he's bombarded from all possible angles out on the water. Other than textile protection he also uses a chemical, followed by a mineral sunblock.
I asked myself the question, 'what about the need for Vitamin D?' I know we can get it from milk and other products that have been exposed to ultraviolet radiation (Vitamin D is not a true vitamin, but the product of a chemical reaction when a cholesterol-related substance is exposed to UV rays.), but can you get enough from food sources if you're not getting sufficient sun?'
Other than bone health, and a decreased mortality in older women, it appears that a lack of "Vitamin D" isn't going to drastically affect ones' quality of life. The US government recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D can be synthesized by our bodies (as long as we have cholesterol present) by as little as three minutes of sun exposure. Persons who use a sunblock agent with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 would need to stay out in the sun for 40-to-60 minutes to synthesize the 600 international units each day. I don't regularly use sunscreen, but I don't think I've seen anything less than SPF 16 on the market; which would require a person to spend two and a half hours to compensate for the protection from skin cancer.
I guess that would mean taking in Vitamin D some other way...you could revert back to your childhood days and endure the daily tablespoon of fish liver oil. Not too tasty, huh? How about 30 whole eggs? I like omelets as much as the next guy, but I think I'll pass on the "ten-omelet-a-day" training plan to someone like Michael Phelps. Beef liver. Nope. Not only too many bad memories of growing up (my rationale for not eating onions), but you'd have to eat four pounds each day. The only reasonable alternative to me seems to be an eight ounce serving of one of what they the call "fatty" fish species, like cod. Some of the mushrooms, like portabello, when exposed to UV and cooked are a decent source, too.
So to me it seems like the best alternative when getting out into the sunlight would be a modicum of clothing items to at least minimize the solar beat-down. A hat with a brim is great, not only for sun protection on the head, face and nose (especially if you or your family is nasally blessed), but a dark interior over the eyes eases eye strain while outdoors.
Remember how I mentioned my selective heliophobia? I believe the only person with more pairs of sunglasses than I might be Sir Elton John. Three decades of working in dimly lit or windowless buildings and office spaces will drive a guy to near-vampirical fear of sunlight. Even the least-expensive pairs of sunglasses are an improvement over no eyewear, and will increase your comfort level on the run.
Moving forward in the comfort category, a lightweight breathable running top cannot be beat. Some folks like the material to be up close and personal to their torso, but a looser fit provides a layer of air moistened by your own perspiration to help maintain some semblance of cooling. Sleeves or no sleeves, that's a personal taste issue.
The bottom line has to be this: Just because you live in a very warm or tropical climate does not require spending six months of the year on the treadmill or living in fear of leathery skin and melanoma or other cancers. A balance of chemical sunblock and proper clothing can help you to remain on the roads for years to come.