By Chris Bavender
Holly Titus used to love hot dogs – until she started eating them competitively.
“I still eat them once in a while, but few and far between after a contest,” said Titus, a customer support coordinator at Wild Birds Unlimited’s headquarters in Carmel.
The 41-year-old will compete for the second time in Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest at New York’s Coney Island in Brooklyn.
So, how did Titus discover her talent for competitive hot dog eating?
“It’s a question I never thought I’d be asked in my life! It actually started with cycling,” she said. “I am just one of those people who was never good at athletic things until I got on a bike. Someone told me about a doughnut-eating bike race – and I love doughnuts and I love to ride – so I did it and won the race. So, competitively eating donuts is how it all started.”
That, and a dare from a friend to “do that hot dog thing (competitive eater) Joey Chestnut does.”
“I wondered if I could,” she said. “I used to watch it on TV on the Fourth of July, so I thought maybe I could try it.”
So, in 2018 she headed to a Cincinnati Reds game for a contest, ate eight hot dogs (bun included) in 10 minutes and ended up winning. That led to competing in July 2018 for the first time in the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest. This year, Titus entered a qualifying competition in St. Louis and earned another shot at the Nathan’s Fourth of July event.
Titus doesn’t practice for competitions but typically does not eat the day before.
“So that I am super-duper hungry by time it happens,” she said.
Her technique is simple. She tears the hot dog and bun in half and dunks it in water to make the bun easier to swallow.
“You have to work past your brain telling you you’re full,” she said. “Thankfully, I’ve not gotten sick. I think I’m more scared about that than eating too much.”
Reaction to her talent is mixed.
“It’s sort of half-mortified and half-fascinated, especially at work since I just started in April, but I do love the reaction,” she said. “People look at me and ask why I do it. My daughter (Lilly) went with me to Coney Island last year and thinks it’s cool, but she doesn’t want to watch during (the event). She thinks it’s gross.”
The hot dog-eating redemption will be televised at 11:30 a.m. July 4 on ESPN.