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I Succumbed to the Beast at Bokamper's

About 30 minutes into the challenge, my mouth simply refused to chew any more. The taste of ground beef had become nauseating; the smell of sulfurous eggs and fatty bacon debilitating. Trying to gnaw through the tough, crusty bread was like eating a mildewed sponge. Simply put, my mind -- and heart -- were giving up on me. There was no way I was going to finish this Beast.

This -- not being excruciatingly full -- was how I failed to finish the five-pound burger challenge at Bokamper's Sports Bar & Grill this weekend. The burger got into my head, and in the end, it won. My first and last foray into competitive eating ended with about 20 minutes left in my hourlong time limit and with a little over half of the burger eaten. It had just become too disgusting to continue. I quite simply couldn't take another bite.

Not to say I was unprepared for the burger, physically. I had trained the week prior to attempting it by pushing myself to eat in bigger quantities and more often. On Wednesday night I thought I had achieved a high-point, forcing myself to a eat a huge dinner that included a greasy burger smothered in onions, cheese, and bacon; as well as fries, rice and beans, two pints of thick pale ale, and a giant slodge of lava cake graced with two large scoops of vanilla ice cream. After that meal, I knew my stomach was ready to be stretched to its limit. But I underestimated the mental preparedness necessary to achieve this goal of eating a five-pound burger in one hour. You have to be ready to quite literally eat one thing non-stop for one hour. That's a more demanding task than fitting five pounds of food in your belly, in my opinion.

My three friends who attempted it and I had each came to the table that Saturday at Bokamper's with distinct strategies in mind. Scott was going to divide and conquer, treating each quarter of the Beast like an individual burger. Jeffrey would go slow and steady, hoping to use the full hour to devour his Beast. I had decided to remove the top bun -- which was as thick as a loaf of bread -- and eat the burger and bottom half first. Gary agreed that was a solid plan of attack, but he one-upped me in the equipment department: He wore elastic stretch pants to the competition. He stood up from the table as we debated and snapped the waistband back against his belly. We each applauded the masterful strategy.

The wait for the burgers to arrive was horrible. We came to Bokamper's full of bravado, but after the 45 minute wait for these five-pound behemoths to cook, we had lost some faith. This was an act of pure inspiration. But to sit and wait, like a death row inmate in the Green Mile, was too much. Finally, when the burgers  arrived, they came in a procession. Each tray was the size of a small coffee table, and on it came a gang of fries, two pickles, and a burger that looked less like a burger than it did a country unto itself. Each Beast was easily over a foot in diameter and as tall as a pint of beer. At this point, I completely panicked.

If this burger had a name, it would be Chuck Norris. Eight strips of bacon, four eggs, four slabs of cheese, and three pounds of ground beef stared me down with an intimidating look that could almost be called a scowl. But still, I attacked. As planned, I removed the top bun and set to work on the beef, sawing off hunks with my fork and knife and forcing them into my mouth. At first, it tasted great: juicy meat, creamy cheese, salty bacon, and runny, yolk-smothered eggs combined to form a slurry of awesome. Early on, I tried my hardest to chew each bite well, knowing that swallowing large chunks would hinder my ability to fit more in. That proved difficult, however, as the longer I chewed each bite, the more my pace slowed.

I reached the halfway point pretty quickly, maybe 15 minutes in. Across the table, my friends were mostly keeping up. Gary was starting into his second half as well, though he had kicked his chair away to stand at the table ("Standing makes more room for digestion," he said, his stretchy pants growing tighter and tighter.) Scott, who had kept his top bread on and eaten about a quarter of the burger, was growing tired. The slowest eater, Jeffrey, was rounding off a quarter of his meat patty and doing just fine. For a moment, I thought we just might do this.

Unfortunately, that moment was gone faster than a beefy burp in the air. As the Beast grew cold and my initial hunger faded, chewing each bite began to feel like an eternity. Where I was once swallowing with abandon, I was now having to force myself to loosen my esophagus and let it down. The beef started to taste horrible to me. I had only one egg left, but its plastic-like texture and sulfurous smell were revolting. The worst part, the bread, was stale from the air and soaked with burger juice. Everyone seemed to reach this point at the same time. Gary started texting, saying he was just taking a break. Scott didn't even bother to deceive himself. "I'm fucking done," he exclaimed. Jeff, the poor bastard, kept churning along but reached a horrible roadblock when he nearly expelled half-digested burger on the table. His eyes watered and he clenched his lips tight as he managed to swallow that bite with a queasy gasp. Things were looking dim.

In the end, I had about a quarter of my burger patty left and well over half the bun. But I couldn't go any further. I tried to conjure up any sports metaphor I could: Winners push past the pain! Dig deep! Give it your all! Unfortunately, it was all for naught. Although I was not even uncomfortably full yet, the Beast had clearly won.

I can see why only four have people managed to finish that burger. After eating so much of one thing in such a short time frame, food just stops tasting good and starts feeling like torture. I paid my $30 and headed for the door, deciding this would be my last venture into competitive eating. I simply love food too much. To make it a chore, to turn it into something so revolting, is almost criminal. Not to mention wasteful.

Of course, I still wish I had been able to take it down. Now that would have be something to remember.

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John Linn

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