Introducing Project Y Subject-Athlete #1: Adrian Bennett
SECTION No1 Introduction
The world will surprise you. It just will. Accept it. If you haven’t yet at your age, in this age, here and now, then either you’re a bona fide psychic or verifiably mentally deficient. Either way, people are going to know and recognize that you’re not operating with the same expectations as the average human. For the rest of us, the best we can do is accept surprise, roll with it, adapt to it. So when we received nearly one hundred (100) applications for Project Y: DK200—a number that far exceeded even our highest expectations—we knew that in order to make that cut, our five Subject-Athletes needed to be something special, something extraordinary.
The vetting process was rigorous and multi-faceted; the attributes considered included Current Perceived Physical Fitness, Athletic and Non-Athletic Palmarès/Awards/Notable Distinctions, Application Creativity & Information Communication, Style, and On-Camera Presence.
The Youth Getting to Know Adrian Bennett
As the most millennial of our millennials, Adrian embodies what sociologists have told the rest of us is their most obvious desire: that they want to their life to “mean” something. Whatever the fuck that means. But hey, I want to believe that maybe he, they, are onto something. This “greater meaning” desire is apparently an incredibly powerful motivator, and in Adrian we see it coupled with a generous endowment of physical ability and the uncompromising enthusiasm of youth. To get a more complete picture of Adrian, we asked him fourteen questions, ranging from illuminating to useless.
1) What’s your name? Age? Hometown? Current Residence?
Adrian Bennett, 23. Petaluma, CA.
2) Do you have a day job? If so what is it?
Bicycle mechanic at Bici Sport. Side hustles include—but are not limited to—salvaging old bikes from the dump and similar bowels of neglect, resurrecting, and flipping.
3) How did you hear about Project Y? What was the central reason you wanted to be a part of this project? You love gravel? Free Stuff? Etc.?
My friend Ben sent me a link to the page. Without him, I wouldn’t have heard of it. Thanks Ben! I’ve been interested in Dirty Kanza since I heard of it senior year of high school via the randonneur subculture. I had an early fascination with events like it and Trans Iowa especially. I thought I might go for it one summer during college, but never rallied the $$/logistics/reg. in time. I’ve also only had a cross bike for a year and change over the last five years, so equipment ownership was also a factor. Free entry to a lifelong interest event, and a free bike? I’m in. So yeah, gravel and free stuff. 😉
4) You were selected for Project Y in part because you have experience with arduous, endurance-based activities. What has been the single hardest event/activity/pursuit that you’ve engaged in up to this point? Please explain.
Honestly, it’s gotta be USAC sanctioned amateur road racing. I did a super randonneur series my senior year of high school, and that 600k was definitely rough. But it was about dogged, ongoing tenacity. You could stop and eat a Clif Bar and rally motivation. Road racing on the other hand is the most brutal form of sporting competition I’ve done: you must withstand—tactically, physically, and emotionally—repeated onslaughts that cause searing pain, and a single moment of faltering means you’re alone in crosswinds for forty miles (this has happened to me a lot). Crits too. I’m a little guy, and racing a crit where it’s strung out single file on the straightaway, out of the saddle smashing desperately, lap after lap; one hour can feel worse than 20+ hours of randonneuring.
5) Regarding the four pillars of Why: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, which will be your biggest challenge? Please explain?
Physical. I guess some say the physical is determined by the mental, like the redline on your physical engine can be increased with mental fortitude, and that’s true. But I have gone into the Caverns of Bleakness enough to know that I just don’t have the engine really fast people do. I am at peace with this.
There are fleeting sensations of lifting, gliding resonance that happen sometimes while riding that I think inform my spirituality (hippie alert). I have this phrase I like, “tiny apes, gliding” that I think encompasses the vastness of the cosmos, the tiny nature of our actions within them, and the significance (and validity of that significance) of those actions to us.
6) Which pillar are you most comfortable with? Please explain?
I think it’s emotional. I see the difference between mental and emotional strength (in this context) as follows:
Mental strength is one’s ability to self-coach/self-talk through challenge. To quote Haruki Murakami (he might have been quoting someone else) in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” So mental fortitude is about the acceptance of pain, and choosing, in the acceptance of that pain, to continue inflicting that pain on yourself. I think I’m just smart enough to understand this, and just stupid enough to keep choosing the pain.
Emotional strength, on the other hand, is kinda related, but maybe not totally. I guess a mental failure would be getting dropped because you couldn’t withstand the pain/drudgery/monotony/got trapped in an Existential Questioning Choices Vortex wherein you decided this was pointless, etc. Whereas an emotional failure is more like a chemical thing where you pull over to the side of the road, totally dejected and sad and full of self-loathing/deep mourning at your inability to go on. I think that, though I will be emotionally impacted by this event, the emotional pillar is the least likely to end my day, so to speak.
- Physical. Is your engine good? Me: OK to maybe.
- Mental. Can you convince yourself this is a good idea? Me: Usually, but there is a breaking point. Let me tell you about some crits and crosswind attack sprees.
- Spiritual. Are you at peace with the vastness of the cosmos and/or divine beings and your interaction with those things during your activities? Me: Yes, but it would be hubris to say I was most comfortable here.
- Emotional. At the end of the day, do you have self-love and a sense of non-egotistical self-worth and faith in the validity of your activities that can’t be shaken by the chemical effects of excessive endurance sports? Me: Here, I am #blessed to say I think I do.
7) Do you have non-bike, non-athletic related hobbies/interests? If so, what are they?
I’m a history dork, US 19th and 20th century especially. But all history. I’ve also been taking my mechanical interests into new arenas; currently, small motor vehicles like the moped I made from a mountain bike I got at the dump for ten bucks. I’m also interested in things I can’t work on myself, like aircraft/spacecraft, etc.
And skateboarding! Though I know if I skate much these days I’ll hurt myself, and I wanna ride bikes too much to hurt myself. One day, my skate renaissance will come. I’m an avid fan. Here’s a skate video my friend Thad filmed of me when I was 15.
I love reading. My bookshelf will have a book on skateboarding next to a book of fairy tales next to a feminist theory book next to a book on World War 2 aircraft next to a zine about dumpster diving in St. Louis.
I am also passionate about social justice and doing what I can to combat, and acknowledge how I am complicit in, the ongoing racism, sexism, transphobia, and general violence that goes down around us. In the current moment, this feels especially urgent. Not sure if this is a hobby/interest? But something I spend time working on/thinking about.
8) Do you have a power animal? If not you should, please assign yourself one? What is it?
Until this moment, I did not have one. Gonna go with the western grey squirrel (Sciurus griseus). A chiller, low profile, likes trees, likes snuggling (I think?), likes snacks, can do sweet tree-to-tree jumps, keeps it stealthy. Also I’ve thought they were cool since I was six.
9) What is your biggest fear?
Being alone, unloved, with my loved ones gone or estranged, and feeling trapped and emotionally isolated.
10) What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done, or thought about doing? Yes, we are going to publish this but that’s not relevant right now. More importantly, this is therapeutic. We’re asking this for your own good. Please take a solid step outside your comfort zone and tell us something you’ve never told anyone before. Trust, reach deep, it’s part of the process. Do it for Science.
In college I had to make a drag persona, so I tried to make myself resemble the pop star Ke$ha. My ensemble was OK, but my femme body language sucked. A lifetime of programmed masculinity is hard to shed for a night.
I also had this character named Fast Vinnie who was vaguely NASCAR-inspired (think Richard Petty not Jeff Gordon) and made some cameos, but he was more normative.
11) What happens to you if you don’t do this kind of thing? If you don’t exercise regularly, if you don’t push, if you don’t challenge yourself regularly, what goes wrong?
I’d either be a Spicoli-type dude minus the surfing or some raging academic who doesn’t sleep. Haven’t waited long enough to find out yet.
12) If you’re here answering this questionnaire it’s in part because you have exercise disease. Why do you have exercise disease? What happened to you when you were a child?
The infection happened because I played outside and had unstructured fun as a kid and didn’t do mandated sports after school. My interest in sport was vague, but not sullied by the kind of disenchantment that happens when Billy’s dad is the coach and makes you play backup right field. My virginal sports immune system had basically lived in a pathogen-free environment; it was healthy, but vulnerable and easily swayed. Then the pathogens took hold for five years of crazed skateboarding. Wheels, surfaces, speed, danger. Yep. Now we’re here.
13) Maybe you have a hero all lined up for this question, maybe you don’t. Either way, who is your hero and why? It does NOT need to be an athlete, but it’s okay if it is an athlete.
Emma Goldman for sure. Ever since I was 16 and read Living My Life. For sports, Lance Mountain. Watch The Bones Brigade Video Show and you’ll know. Heck, here ya go:
14) What does existential you look like? Please tell us about existential you.
You’re looking at him guys. Active nihilism FTW.