From pro triathlon to politics to Max Fennell, 32, lives life full send. The first (and only) African American professional triathlete, Fennel is also an entrepreneur, has political aspirations, and prefers hiking over sleeping. Here’s more about this man of intrigue.
He’s a Cold Brew Connoisseur.
In 2018, Fennell started up Fenn Coffee, a small-batch coffee roasting company, after working a few prior gigs in the industry. He came up with his own recipe for cold brew, connected with coffee farmers in El Salvador, and now spends more than 40 hours a week planning, packaging, and distributing the product. “It’s an art,” he said of the perfect cold brew elixir. “It’s not about just grinding beans and letting it sit. It has to be low in acidity and high in caffeine content.” While Fennell said Fenn works well for endurance athletes (“It gives you that strong caffeine kick and ignites that second gear without hurting your stomach.”), it’s marketed it to any fan of cold brew. “We’re in stores in the Bay Area and I see all sorts of people drinking it.”
He’s a Reality TV Pro.
Max may not be an obstacle racer, but he played one on TV. Last year, he was cast on the Lebron James’ produced short-lived reality show Million Dollar Mile, where he was known as “The Machine.” He spent 15 days in L.A. filming the show, which pitted pro athletes against contestants of average abilities on an obstacle course. “It was a dream state mixed in with an adrenaline rush every night,” he said of the experience. And Fennell may not be done with reality TV just yet: He’s eying a spot on Amazon Prime’s reboot of Eco-Challenge, dubbed “the World’s Toughest Race,” next.
He’s An Aspiring Politician.
Fennell’s latest venture? Running for Menlo Park’s City Council’s District 3 seat. Fennell recently kick-started his campaign after experiencing a series of frustrations within the local government, specifically trying to set up free swim lessons at a local pool. “We have an under-utilized pool here and I was willing to arrange a program for swimming lessons there. The city council wasn’t supportive, even though I know the community would jump on it.” This, along with frustrations stemming from the area’s high cost of living, compelled him to toss his hat into the ring for November’s election. “More millennials need to stop complaining about things on social media and become a civil servant to really make those changes,” he said. “I make a good leader, I have good policies, solid solutions, and I’m willing to give up the next four years.”
He’s Into Archery.
Fennell recently added another sport to his arsenal: Archery. “It’s very meditative and calming,” he explained. “It’s a great way to get some extra mileage in my legs, I’ll park by the archery range, run for an hour, and then run the archery range, which is about two miles total.”
He’s A Wanderer.
“Sometimes I just go out on night hikes. I start at 3:30 in the morning and go out for two hours, in the dark, with no light, just to see if I can pick a point on a map and find it,” he said. While he’s not likely to run into people on these late-night journeys, he has encountered several other species: “One time, I swore I heard a coyote and I’ve had a mountain lion sneak up on me. But I love just being out there, alone and quiet in my head.”
He Wants To Boost Other Black Athletes.
For years, Fennell has served as a mentor and supported fundraising efforts for the Tri-Masters program in Chicago, which serves inner-city youth. And, ultimately, he’d like to start his own foundation which could provide young black athletes with bikes and funds to boost them onto the elite triathlon scene. “I know some young black kids who are up and coming in the sport and I’d love to just give them all the resources to support them, take care of the expenses, and I think we’d see them doing really amazing things in the sport.”