Food & Drink All you can eat

Local boy eats good

Seguin native Randy Harrison, ranked 28th in the world in competitive eating, will participate in the three-day Alka-Seltzer US Open, in Las Vegas, Nevada, airing in three episodes beginning at 7 p.m. July 28 on ESPN. A retired police officer, Harrison works as a night-shift dispatcher for the Bexar County Sheriff's Office. In a brief interview with the Current he discussed competitive-eating strategies.

How'd you get into competitive eating?

In late 2004, I joined the International Federation of Competitive Eating. I saw there was a contest in Houston - I entered it and took second place. That was remarkable because I beat Sonya Thomas, the Black Widow, who is No. 2 in the world and No. 1 in the United States.

How much do you have to eat at a competition?

In that first contest, I had to eat 84 ounces of baked beans as quickly as possible. Out in Las Vegas, we were given 14 minutes to eat as much spaghetti as we could get down. If you can't hold a lot, you're out.

How do you train?

A week or so before the contest, I'll start going for buffet lunches. I'll eat once a day and stretch out my stomach. Some people will drink a gallon of water as fast as they can, and some people take lots of vitamin B12, which is supposed to aid digestion.

What are your best events?

So far it's been baked beans. I thought I'd do good at an oyster contest I attended in Louisiana, but I ate 17 dozen and didn't even place. Thomas ate 49 dozen in 12 minutes, and then went on to break the all-time world record of 50 dozen.

What is your secret to winning?

The key is to start off in first place and stay there. Some people like to stay just behind the leader and let them wear themselves out, but once you get behind you have to work twice as hard to catch up.

Is this a career?

I don't think anyone, besides `The World Hot Dog Champion` Takeru Kobayashi, makes a career of this sport. Thomas manages a Burger King, but she wins enough contests to make about $7,000-10,000 a year.

Any advice for young hopefuls?

You don't have to be a big person to win at competitive eating. Sonya is only 5'5", and I think she weighs 105 pounds; Kobayashi is 5'7" and weighs just 125 pounds.

- Susan Pagani