Hi, my name is Matt, and I foolishly thought trying to qualify for the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest would be a good idea.
For those who are unfamiliar, every 4th of July thousands of people gather at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island, New York, to watch people eat a metric ton of hot dogs.
The competition is pretty simple. You have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs (and buns) as you can.
The top competitive eaters — like Joey "Jaws" Chestnut and Matt "Megatoad" Stonie — can shove over 60 hot dogs down their throats in 10 minutes.
I'm not a competitive eater, but like most red-blooded Americans I enjoy hot dogs and I grew up watching the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN every 4th of July.
So when I realized I could sign up for the qualifying event and possibly compete on the 4th of July, I jumped at the chance — like an absolute idiot.
The first of my many mistakes was underestimating just how incredibly difficult it is to be a competitive eater.
Not only does that sound painful, but it can be pretty dangerous as well. Top eaters can drink a gallon of water in under a minute. Major League Eating even warns people against home training on safety page of their website.
I watched an ESPN Sports Science video explaining the mechanics of fitting 69 hot dogs (Joey Chestnut's world record) in a typical human stomach, and it left me physically ill.
Despite my stupidity and arrogance I still knew I had to compete — for no other reason than I knew people would enjoy seeing me miserable.
When I went grocery shopping, the list consisted of hot dogs, hot dog buns, and spicy brown mustard — nothing else.
When I ate lunch...hot dogs. Dinner...hot dogs. Breakfast...hot dogs. I eventually smelled like a hot dog. My body took on the consistency of a hot dog. I became a hot dog.
To get mentally ready for the competition I took a journey to the hot dog capital itself — the original Nathan's Famous in Coney Island.
I gazed upon the countdown clock and world records.
And of course I had some dogs...
...four to be exact. I wanted to keep it light.
I was optimistic. I believed in myself. I thought that I could possibly reach my goal of 10 hot dogs. I was ready.
Yet when the day of the competition finally came I was decidedly NOT ready.
Prior to the event I tried to fight the nerves with false confidence...
...but that giant pyramid of hot dogs kept taunting me, knowing full well that they would defeat me.
I knew my sunglasses couldn't hide my fear and anxiety, but there was no turning back.
It started easily enough. I took down two hot dogs and two soggy buns with no problem. I laughed as my cheering section chanted "SOAK THOSE BUNS!"
I attacked the dogs with reckless abandon...
...but I quickly faltered.
As the competition continued to eat, I stood there with my palms flat on the table, staring at my unfinished hot dogs.
And that's when I knew I had to push through the pain, tears, and the constraints of my puny stomach. I fought on — valiantly, but unsuccessfully.
I felt like a boxer waiting for the bell as the meat, bread, and water pushed my stomach into a second trimester.
By the time it was over, I had consumed eight hot dogs and buns, but more importantly I was simply happy to be alive.
1. I severely underestimated how difficult this little adventure would be. Going into this I truly believed I could knock down 10 hot dogs in 10 minutes without breaking a sweat. Instead I barely finished eight hot dogs and it left me a defeated, sweaty, crying mess of a human.
2. Competitive eaters are true athletes. When you watch them on TV you may not be impressed, but when you think of the physical and mental fitness it takes to consume 40 to 60 hot dogs in 10 minutes, it's truly amazing.
3. Hot dog sweats are the worst kind of sweats, and eating a water-soaked bun is not as easy as it seems.
4. I didn't come remotely close to qualifying for the main event on July 4th, but it was definitely an experience I won't forget.
5. I'm immensely lucky to have a girlfriend who continued to date me after this disgusting experience.