Triathlete Chet "the Jet" Blanton has landed in Bakersfield once again. This time he sounded just slightly less ambitious than when he spoke to The Californian last summer.
That interview took place shortly before Blanton was to attempt a "Triple Deca" in Italy, a challenge -- if you can call it that -- that called for competitors to complete 30 full Ironman triathlons in 30 days.
And although running, swimming and biking over 4,200 miles in one month sounds comical or downright dangerous to most people, Blanton prides himself on pushing the edge of his physical envelope.
Unfortunately for the Southern California native, a successful Triple Deca simply wasn't in the cards.
He abandoned the attempt -- partially -- about halfway through the month. He says he still completed the 2.4-mile swimming portion of the event for the duration but didn't have the energy to handle the running and biking segments because of nutritional issues.
His determination in the water surprised many of his friends and even Blanton himself, who says he rarely trains in the pool before his races.
"Everybody knows me as the guy who doesn't like to swim," Blanton said. "And everybody laughed and said 'You swam every day?' And I said 'Yeah, I know, I can swim.' I figured I could do 30 swims and that'd be somewhat of a goal, and for me that was a big goal."
In total, he ended up finishing 13 full Ironmans in the 30-day period, still an incredible endurance feat for a man whose competition resume is -- pardon the pun -- a mile long.
"I was happy with it," Blanton said. "At first, I was kind of bummed out, but then I said 'You know what, I did an Ironman every other day in 13 hours for the last 7 or 8 of them.' I did 12:52 at the Vineman (a few weeks before), and I doing 13:13s, 13:20s (at the Triple Deca). I said 'Hey, I'm 55 years old, I'm doing a low-13 Ironman every other day, and I feel great.'"
The Vineman triathlon, which is held in Sonoma County and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, has brought Blanton back to California, where he lived for many years -- including several years in Bakersfield -- before relocating to Hawaii in the mid-1990s. Blanton is visiting his son, who lives in Bakersfield, before heading up to Sonoma for the event Saturday.
It will be Blanton's eighth Vineman and 89th full triathlon in his decades-long endurance sports career.
Despite picking up a nagging knee problem last month that has prevented him from running much, Blanton isn't worried about the snags in his training and is excited as ever to toe the line at one of the most historic triathlon venues in the world.
"Most people would be like 'Oh my god, the race is in two or three weeks and I haven't run in a month,'" Blanton said earlier this month. "In my mind, it's only mental. And it's only one Ironman. I know most people can't say that, but for me, it's only one Ironman. ...I'm treating this more as a workout."
That's because for Blanton, the Vineman isn't the biggest race on his schedule this year. That distinction goes to the Kona Ironman -- the holy grail of triathlons -- which is set for Oct. 11.
Blanton was informed last month that he won a spot in the highly-competitive Kona field via the race's lottery system, writing on Facebook that it was "The best phone call I ever got" and "The best day of my life."
Unlike the Triple Deca, he would've been crazy to say 'no' to this one.
"That's been a dream of mine ever since I started 20 years ago," Blanton said of competing at Kona. "It's perfect timing, so Kona is my A-race now. ...People still ask, 'Well, have you done Kona? Oh, no. Well, you haven't really done an Ironman.'
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me."