Friday, April 27, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Get ready. Get set. Gorge.
For the 15th consecutive year, competitive eaters from across the West Coast will converge on the Strip for a chance to battle in the nation’s most prominent hot dog eating contest.
The contest is sure to be a food fight worth watching. Male and female competitors will snarf down hundreds of hot dogs, complete with buns.
How do they do it?
“The top competitors train like maniacs,” said Rich “The Locust” LeFevre of Henderson, an eight-time Nathan’s contestant. The 68-year-old retired accountant won’t compete Saturday, but he and his wife were nationally ranked competitive eaters — or gurgitators, as they like to be called — for years.
LeFevre attributes his ability to natural talent. He always has been a big eater, he says, and does little to prepare for competitions.
Most of the world’s top eaters, however, dedicate themselves to the sport, just like any professional athlete would.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, the king of competitive eating and last year’s Nathan’s champ, spends months preparing for battle. For three months leading up to a contest, he eats as many hot dogs as he can every three days.
“Joey and the other top guys found a way to not chew,” LeFevre said. “They just force the hot dogs down their gullet, one after the other.”
Less adept competitors typically break hot dogs in two before eating them. Nearly all of the eaters soak the buns in water to break them down and make them easier to swallow.
Chestnut also drinks more than 3 gallons of water the day before a challenge to stretch out his stomach.
Other competitive eaters undergo similarly grueling regimens. Eric “Badlands” Booker chugs a gallon of water in less than two minutes every day for 10 days before a contest. Ed “Cookie” Jarvis eats nine pounds of boiled cabbage to get his gut ready. Competitive eating titan Takeru Kobayashi eats six to eight meals totaling 10,000 calories a day.
Kobayashi won the Nathan’s contest six years in a row until Chestnut bested him.
The Nathan’s competition has taken place every Fourth of July on Coney Island since 1916. Last year, Chestnut ate 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes to win. Female victor Sonya Thomas ate 40 hot dogs. Winners share $40,000 in prizes.