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I Tried To Eat Hot Dogs Competitively And Nearly Died

I survived — barely.

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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.


The top competitive eaters — like Joey "Jaws" Chestnut and Matt "Megatoad" Stonie — 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 — 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.


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 — 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 — more specifically their stomachs — 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.

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 — and holy shit was I wrong.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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 — 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.

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 — 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.


...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.


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 — 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.