Friday, June 6, 2014

The Lumberyard Eating Challenge

Pic by Courtney
Switching things up a bit, I’m going to write a recap of my last endeavor, an eating challenge. I figured this is probably something the standard “Cats in Pajamas” audience member rarely partakes in. Hopefully I can provide a little insight on the challenges of an eating competition. Let me preface this by saying that I went into this entirely too cocky. As I found out (just like I found out during my 1st beer mile), because you like something (food, beer, or even working out) and you enjoy doing it a lot, doesn't make you competitive at it. There’s a separation between enjoying a particular activity (in this case, eating cheeseburgers & fries) and relishing in the struggle of a trial or competition involving that.

This particular eating challenge was discovered (note: “discovered” is being used as a personal reference, not a public revelation) as Mark Barber and I were enjoying a double cheeseburger at The Lumberyard in Encinitas a year ago. On the menu, a 4x4 burger eating challenge is offered, though few have taken part in it, let alone finished. In short, you have 30 minutes to finish four 1/2lb patties, topped with four slices of cheese, four pieces of bacon, lettuce, a fried egg, onions and a Thousand Island spread on both sides of the pretzel bun. Oh, failed to mention the 1lb of french fries surrounding this mountain of burger, like a moat protecting a castle. This idea was thrilling, to say the least. As we ate our double cheeseburgers, the challenge seemed very accomplish-able.

It wasn't until my roommate, Jake, suggested the idea a few weeks ago that we finally found a date to put our high talk into action. Now, those who know me are most likely aware that I can put away a pretty hefty portion of food. Unfortunately, I also eat at a speed similar to the speed that Garmin’s customer service department works at- SLOW as a dying turtle. I’ll ALWAYS be the last person eating at the table & have become comfortable with people angrily watching me eat as they’re waiting leave. I can make a bowl of oatmeal last for hours. If there was a Lifetime Achievement award for savoring food, I’d have two of them.
That being said, I figured, in the spirit of competition, I could flip the switch and eat fast for 30 minutes (that’s probably how Kobayachi or Joey Chestnut train for competitive eating competitions, right?). Same strategy for endurance sports.. Just do a bunch of reeeeaallly long slow runs for years & I’m sure you’ll knock out a 4-minute mile when game day finally rolls around. (no?)

Game Day:
With a support crew of friends, we rolled into The Lumberyard on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Having done some substantial training (cycling, not food prep) in the morning/ afternoon, I came hungry. When we informed our server that out of the 10+ people at our table, 3 would be doing the 4x4 challenge, a quiet sense of excitement spread throughout the restaurant (or maybe just our table and 3 other servers). A man, who I can only assume was the manager, came out before the challenge started and listed the official rules. When our mammoth mountains of meat were presented to us, I was excited right down to the moment it was set down before me. I’m sure I heard the table let out a small quiver as the beast burger was dropped in front of me and tested the bulwark of this eating pulpit. After the essential documentation (snapchat, naturally) of these outlandish towers of carne had commenced, a timer was set down before us.
The same shaky feeling you get, minutes before a race, overtook me as I looked into the eyes of the burger. The timer was started and we were off. I had no real strategy for this (which was stupid), opened the burger up and started mowing patty by patty down. I glanced over at Mark to see the “Pie slice” method being employed, with a perfectly chiseled out 1/5th of the tower now missing. Jake had chosen to take the classic burger eating method (to his credit & scoring the most style points). He, straight up, manhandled the entire thing and was ferociously attacking it like a corn on the cob. 
Game Faces. Snapchat by Charisa
My first reality check came after the 1st 5 minutes, when I’d already taken down 2 patties and some bacon and realized my stomach didn't have the ability to posses this much food in a mere 30 minutes. Hunger wasn't the issue, I was perpetually hungry the whole time, I just couldn't fit it into my stomach like a boa constructor. 15 minutes in, I had 1 patty remaining and started working on the fries. After taking down all the sweet potato fries I took stock of the remaining room in my body, picked up the last patty and couldn't take a bite. These patties weren't your flimsy burger king/in-n-out patties, these were heavy. They said the burger was 2lbs of meat, but we decided that it was an estimate and was likely more. Mark was the 1st to throw out the white flag, followed by Jake and I, surrendering with 10 minutes to go. Mitch Hall rationalized it the best when he asked “If you were absolutely famished right now, could you eat the remainder of that in 10 minutes?” No. So why even attempt it after having stuffed your face silly for 20 minutes.
A scale was brought out and we weighed what Jake and I had remaining… Jake had 10oz of food left and I had 11. Jake was the winner of the losers. As I said yesterday, I may have lost the battle but I won the war with that burger. I felt fantastic the next day and had enough calories to provide some great workouts.

Take-away from this experience: Because I love food doesn't make me a competitive eater. Expecting to just show up and finish that in 30 minutes would be like your casual exerciser (20 minutes of cardio 3x a week, arms & back on Tues/Thurs, etc..) expecting to jump into an Ironman and finish in under 10 hours. There’s a reason only 19 people of the 150+ have been successful in the 4x4 challenge; it wouldn't be a challenge if it was easy. The willingness to train & suffer is what separates the competitors from the participants.

On an unrelated note, I'm jazzed to be going to Syracuse again for the 70.3 in 2 weeks!

1 comment:

  1. I love the Garmin reference in this! And the triathlon analogies, and the excitement for Syracuse.