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    I Tried To Eat Hot Dogs Competitively And Nearly Died

    I survived β€” barely.

    Jon Premosch / Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

    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.

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    As you can probably tell by the tears in my eyes I was VERY, VERY wrong.

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    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.

    Yana Paskova / Getty Images

    The competition is pretty simple. You have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs (and buns) as you can.

    Andrew Renneisen / Getty Images

    The top competitive eaters β€” like Joey "Jaws" Chestnut and Matt "Megatoad" Stonie β€” can shove over 60 hot dogs down their throats in 10 minutes.

    ESPN / Via

    Stonie defeated eight-time champion Chestnut last year after devouring 62 hot dogs. He's also only 5'8" and weights 120 pounds β€” yeah, I know, I don't understand how either.

    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.

    Matt Kiebus / BuzzFeed

    My 4th of July plans have always been very exciting.

    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 β€” like an absolute idiot.

    Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

    The first of my many mistakes was underestimating just how incredibly difficult it is to be a competitive eater.

    Matt Kiebus / BuzzFeed

    When I initially decided to embark on my death-by-hot-dog adventure I was convinced I could EASILY get down 10 hot dogs. I thought, I'll just eat a shit ton of hot dogs in the month leading up to the competition and I'll be fine. My logic was, "I trained for a marathon β€” I can override my brain and convince my body to do just about anything."

    And then I read about what these competitive eaters do to prepare their bodies β€” more specifically their stomachs β€” for these events. THEY STRETCH THEIR STOMACHS. They learn how to ignore their gag reflex in order to squeeze an inhuman amount of food in their body.

    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.


    In a lot of ways competitive eating is similar to golf. You watch it on TV and say, "How is this a sport? I can do that!" But you quickly realize you cannot do that and you'll never be able to do that and it's insulting that you ever thought you could do that.

    All of the confidence I had going into the event vanished. I'm not a competitive eater, but I thought I could eat a lot of hot dogs if I put my mind to it β€” and holy shit was I wrong.

    Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

    Despite my stupidity and arrogance I still knew I had to compete β€” for no other reason than I knew people would enjoy seeing me miserable.

    Matt Kiebus / BuzzFeed

    So I kept eating. I nearly threw up the first time I dipped the hot dog buns in water, which is a method competitive eaters use in order to swallow the buns faster. I couldn't even get one water-soaked bun down without gagging violently. I knew this was going to be a problem, but I kept eating.

    Hot dogs became my life.

    When I went grocery shopping, the list consisted of hot dogs, hot dog buns, and spicy brown mustard β€” nothing else.

    Matthew Kiebus / BuzzFeed

    When I ate dogs. dogs. dogs. I eventually smelled like a hot dog. My body took on the consistency of a hot dog. I became a hot dog.

    Matt Kiebus / BuzzFeed
    Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

    To get mentally ready for the competition I took a journey to the hot dog capital itself β€” the original Nathan's Famous in Coney Island.

    Matt Kiebus / BuzzFeed

    It was a trip I needed to take alone. I needed to get my mind right and soak in some inspiration from the greats.

    I gazed upon the countdown clock and world records.

    Matt Kiebus / BuzzFeed

    And of course I had some dogs...

    Matt Kiebus / BuzzFeed

    ...four to be exact. I wanted to keep it light.

    Matt Kiebus / BuzzFeed

    I was optimistic. I believed in myself. I thought that I could possibly reach my goal of 10 hot dogs. I was ready.

    Matt Kiebus / BuzzFeed

    Yet when the day of the competition finally came I was decidedly NOT ready.

    Matt Kiebus / BuzzFeed

    The nervous energy was coursing through my body more than any sporting event in my athletic career β€” which includes the Suburban Catholic League Championship in eighth grade. This was that big.

    It was Father's Day, the New York Mets had a 1 p.m. game against the Atlanta Braves, and the stage for the contest was across from the main entrance to the stadium. The buzz was building. Fans filing off the 7 Train and LIRR for the baseball game had no fucking clue what was going on, but I felt like they were all there for me.

    I even had my own support team show up that included my girlfriend, dad, brother, and 10 other close friends. They said they came to cheer me on, but they probably wanted to see me throw up.

    Prior to the event I tried to fight the nerves with false confidence...

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    Nothing says "I'm scared and I'm really trying to hide it" quite like posing with the championship trophy before the event.

    ...but that giant pyramid of hot dogs kept taunting me, knowing full well that they would defeat me.

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    I knew my sunglasses couldn't hide my fear and anxiety, but there was no turning back.

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    All the calories I consumed and workouts I skipped were leading up to this moment β€” it was my time to shine, or fail miserably.

    Soon after I signed my accidental-death-by-hot-dog waiver, the event MC introduced Matt "The Stomach" Kiebus to the frenzied crowd. He even made up a incredibly specific backstory that I drank seven shots of Fireball the night before at Brother Jimmy's (a NYC dive bar) on 91st Street.

    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!"

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    I attacked the dogs with reckless abandon...

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    ...but I quickly faltered.

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    Around the fifth or sixth hot dog I started to hit a wall. The soaked buns were immediately triggering my very weak gag reflex, and it was looking like I was going to give the front row a souvenir of half-digested hot dogs.

    The meat sweats were starting to kick in. I was no longer feeding off the crowd. I just wanted to get through the 10 minutes without embarrassing my girlfriend, family, friends, Mets fans, the city of New York, and my employer.

    As the competition continued to eat, I stood there with my palms flat on the table, staring at my unfinished hot dogs.

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    And that's when I knew I had to push through the pain, tears, and the constraints of my puny stomach. I fought on β€” valiantly, but unsuccessfully.

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    I felt like a boxer waiting for the bell as the meat, bread, and water pushed my stomach into a second trimester.

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    By the time it was over, I had consumed eight hot dogs and buns, but more importantly I was simply happy to be alive.

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

    I never came close to my goal of 10 hot dogs, but at least I successfully surpassed the over/under set by my friends at 7.5 hot dogs.

    It was a spiritual journey that brought me to some very dark places, but as the announcer mocked my performance and told the crowd that I'll most likely lose my job for it β€” all I could do was smile and think about whether or not I should throw up immediately.

    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.

    Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed