I guess I’m no competitive eater

Published 1:21 pm Saturday, September 22, 2012

In case you were wondering, American Joey Chestnut holds the record for hot dogs and buns eaten in 10 minutes at 68.

I wasn’t even close to that.

While competing in the Hot Dog Eating Contest on Sept. 15 at the Isle of Wight County Fair, I managed to choke down only three in five minutes, far from record-breaking.

For those who don’t know, I am somewhat of a legend at The Tidewater News for my eating prowess and I have an expanding waistline to prove it. Whether it’s pizza, burgers, steak, or ribs, I usually clean my plate and come back for seconds or thirds.

Only taking down three dogs during the contest was a disappointment, but a full belly wasn’t what did me in.

I was one of eight contestants to take part in the public gluttony. We were given 12 hot dogs in buns and two bottles of water. One bottle was for drinking and a second was for dunking buns for lubrication as they slid down the gullet.

This is where the match took an unfortunate, soggy and unsettling turn.

I had seen the bun-dunking strategy in the past and it seemed to work for the competitive eaters on Coney Island, so I figured I’d give it a shot without any real practice.

I made quick work of the first dog and when it was time to dispatch the bun I didn’t hesitate to submerge it in the clear, purified water.

I lifted it toward my mouth, and as it touched my lips, I knew I’d have a problem. The drenched bun had a slimy, filmy consistency that seemed like it would be better suited plugging a hole in a wall than being edible. I bit off a piece of the spackle and immediately balked.

While the water made the bun easier to swallow, which comes in handy during a timed eating event, something unexpected happened. It felt like I had swallowed a fistful of muddy earthworms that were fighting to stay down.

I reluctantly finished the first bun and had gotten through the first dog unscathed, but a little surprised at how hard it was to chew quickly.

I dispatched of the second dog with urgency in hopes that I could make up for my slow start. I once again dunked the bun and prepared myself for the unpleasant 30 seconds or so. This time, however, I couldn’t swallow the paste-like concoction. I tried more water, but the mess wouldn’t go down.

I looked out at the crowd of fairgoers, who had moved closer to puke-range when the action started. As time slowly ticked off the clock, I stood chewing and hoping that I wouldn’t make an emergency stage cleaning necessary.

My eyes began to water and I feared that my visible signs of illness would be so great that I’d be kicked out of the contest. I looked down at my cup of water that was dotted with bun remains, which didn’t help. I took another swig from my bottled water and the bun-glue finally slid down my throat.

Apprehension grew as I grabbed what would be my final downed dog of the afternoon. Once again I had no problem getting rid of the meat portion, but the final bun continued to stare me in the face.

I decided to forego the dunking this time and tried to consume the dry bread. Unfortunately its dryness made chewing a challenge and all I could muster before time elapsed was one final bunless dog, which didn’t even count.

Competitive eating was one of those things I thought anyone with a hearty appetite could do well in. It turns out, and I know this from experience, that a hearty appetite is a nice start, but there’s strategy and practice involved as well.

I would like to thank the Isle of Wight County Fair Committee for trying something new this year and giving me the chance to find out.

DALE LIESCH is a reporter at The Tidewater News and can be reached at dale.liesch@tidewaternews.com