Going into this competition I knew that my stomach capacity and technique were in proper order. The more elements that are controlled going into a competition the better. But no matter how many elements you control the unknown is always the food. The only consistent food on the circuit has been Krystal hamburgers and Ash creek ribs. Consistent is defined as being consistently good and fast by having food at ideal temperatures and skillfully prepared. When the food is in question the totals will vary from year to year based on preparation and speed during the competition. If the food was overcooked or cold the numbers will suffer. This is not a complaint but a way of the circuit. Honestly, if I had to cook for myself and other eaters I would not be too pleased in preparing food knowing its consumption will be at breakneck speed. For most competitions normal things that tie into eating go out the window. For example, normally one eats when hungry. It's rare to be hungry going into a competition as butterflies and excitement trump all other feeling a normal brain exhibits. While most eat food for flavor and nourishment, textures are the only thing that registers during contests. Afterwards conversation and reflection will stem from thoughts on how chewy, crunchy, or slimy the food was. The higher the level of eater the less all of these outside or unknown factors come into play. Once everything else is tuned out and the mind is dialed into consumption mode it doesn't matter that the food was ice cold or meat needed a hack saw to cut into consumable bites. As all eaters have the same food, if it was difficult, it was difficult for everyone. It took quite some time to be comfortable and perform when dealing with the outside factors.
There is no comfort when facing Joey Chestnut in battle. This was the case in Stockton a week ago. This contest has forced me to refocus my efforts in eating. I have gone into every competition with the burning desire to be victorious no matter the opponents. There have been times where victories have come as disappointment as the level of eating was not up to my standards. There have also been competitions where 3rd place finishes have brought happiness and contentment because a new level of concentration and performance had been reached. Following this contest disappointed in my performance because of a slow and clumsy start, as well as struggling to stay competitive in the 2nd half of the competition where the thoughts that saturated my cranium. This contest along with peanut butter and jelly, and waffle house waffles will continue to be a humbling discipline. The numbers will never truly reflect the difficulty and unnatural feeling it takes to process and consume these items. Out of all foods these 3 in seem like ones god never intended to be consumed in high volume or speed. The best analysis is to compare the asparagus to steel wool. Never have is it been such a struggle to clear mouthful after mouthful and to know that you are chasing a runaway horse. There was no way I was catching Joey on that day. The entire competition consisted of a panicked catch up mode. With 5 lbs downed by us both in 4 minutes it was a limp across the finish. Each mouthful required vast amounts of liquid to clear (the warm pink lemonade not helping in the least). It was strictly a jaw and throat strength showcase. Never before has a contest taxed every function that is required of a top gurgitator. It challenged capacity, jaw strength, speed, stamina, and speed of swallow.
In the end, Joey showed a true champions desire and determination to power through all feelings and brain functions. A point came with 1 minute remaining where the margin was 1 spear. It became obvious that I could take this contest in front of Joey's home crowd. I saw victory and let it slip through my grasp. My brain knew the necessary means to achieve this yet a disconnect between brain and body function existed. It was a point of mental and physical failure as neither would respond in the dwindling seconds. Asparagus was forced in yet my body fought every attempt to let it pass down my esophagus. It's provides evidence that Joey is a true champion; a champion knows how to coerce every ounce of drive and performance out of their body, doesn't make excuses, and gets the job done. My goal has been to be the number one eater in the world. That obstacle rivals world record pole vaulting heights as I push myself mentally and physically to best Joey and Kobayashi.
Upon reflection it seems I've been going through the motions for quite some time. It took a losing record against Joey in "08 to realize that I am not having the same amount of fun that I once did in competition. When I can look inside and realize that it's an honor to be the number 2 ranked eater and not be so focused on performance, the zone I got in, and speed, I will be far better off. Somewhere through the 100+ contests I lost sight of the fact that this sport although serious should be one of enjoyment and fun. The payoff is in the journey, friendships, and knowledge of new boundaries and limits one can push their body in search of supremacy and greatness.
My next competition will be on May 10th in Minneapolis Minnesota as I attempt to qualify for Nathan's famous annual 4th of July competition. My goal is to come close to my personal best of 49 hot dogs and buns and to win. If you're in the area you can check it out;
Cub Foods Grocery Store
15350 Cedar Avenue South
Apple Valley, MN 55124
Also, for those interested in major league eating go to http://www.majorleagueeating.com/
Chow, eat up and eat well,
Patrick Deep Dish Bertoletti