f you want a physical challenge, you could start with a half-Ironman.
If you want punishment along with your physical challenge, the Marine Corps Ironman 70.3 world championships just might be for you.
Anna Desireau, a 46-year-old Kamloops woman, is scheduled to head to Henderson, Nev., on Sept. 8 to take part in the world championships on Sept. 11.
The race, featuring triathletes from all 50 states and more than 50 countries, features an opening 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike and a 13.1-mile run that will give the athletes views of the Las Vegas Strip.
Technically, it's a half-Ironman, but is named 70.3 based on the number of miles an athlete will travel before crossing the finish line.
Under normal circumstances, just getting to that finish line is a phenomenal accomplishment. For the competitors at worlds, there's also the heat factor - the temperature in Henderson on Monday hit 42 C.
Nothing can prepare someone for a grueling race in scorching temperatures, not even Kamloops' recent heat wave.
"We've been pretty hot here, but . . ." Desireau said Monday. "I've been online, and it's been 43 down there.
"It should cool off a bit in September . . . if we're lucky, it will be high 30s."
But Desireau wouldn't be a good triathlete if she didn't have the intestinal fortitude to battle through tough conditions.
She has competed in four half-Ironman triathlons this season, finishing among the top-five of her division each time. She also would have competed in the Subaru Ironman Canada in Penticton on Sunday - it's twice as long as an Ironman 70.3 - had she not been preparing for worlds.
Desireau got into triathlon the old-fashioned way - she watched one event, then decided to try it. Simple as that.
"We were living downtown, and there was the (YMCA) mini-sprint triathlon going on," Desireau said. "My husband (Ted), said, 'You could probably do that.' "
That was in 1996. Fifteen years later, she is constantly competing in half-Ironman races and has completed 10 full Ironman events, including three world championships in Kona, Hawaii.
"I was even in all three disciplines," Desireau said of her skill when she started in triathlon. "That was good; I could work a little on each and try to get better at all of them."
Desireau's personal-best time is five hours five minutes, but she feels, based on the course conditions, that a time of 5:15:00 to 5:25:00 would be excellent.
She is going in as an amateur, age-class competitor, but will be competing against professional athletes.
"I don't compare myself to those people," Desireau said. "I try to focus on my own category. When I was young, I would try to place in the top 10 or top 20, but I pay more attention now to my category."
Desireau is an award-winning stylist at La Dolce Vita Day Spa and Salon, which she lists as one of her sponsors. She also thanks Consignor Sports, Flavour Design, MultiSport Solutions, Bikram Yoga, Runner's Sole, Dr. Scott Carson and Natural Strength Crossfit.
Without them, she says, she wouldn't be making the excursion to Nevada.
The main reason for the trip is business, but there will be some pleasure mixed in after the race. Anna and Ted will spend four days in Vegas to celebrate Ted's upcoming 50th birthday.
Anna even plans to enjoy the race, despite the heat, the distance and whatever nerves she feels.
"I just want to have fun," said Desireau, who will be competing at the half-Ironman worlds for the first time despite having previously qualified twice. "The hardest part is getting there; once you're there, you have to enjoy the moment."
As long as you don't melt in the sun.