02/04/10 — The great burger battle

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The great burger battle

By Laura Collins
Published in News on February 4, 2010 1:46 PM

News-Argus Video Report

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Laura responds to a question from the crowd, "Are you full?" with a thumbs down during the Andy's Big "A" Cheeseburger Challenge.

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Laura takes a large bite out of the fries that are a part of the Andy's Big "A" Cheeseburger Challenge.

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John Penner holds Laura's arm up in victory and concedes during the Andy's Big "A" Cheeseburger Challenge.

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Laura poses with the remainder of the Andy's Big "A" Challenge she was unable to finish after taking down her opponent John Penner.

The Job: Andy's Big "A" Challenge

The Company: Andy's Burgers, Shakes and Fries

The Location: Spence Avenue

Victory is sweet.

Actually, victory tastes like a massive three-pound cheeseburger. But the only real victor Wednesday was Andy's and the restaurant's insane challenge.

I was facing two opponents yesterday, the Big "A" Challenge -- a three-pound cheeseburger, fries and a drink -- and my challenger John Penner, a fellow employee at The News-Argus. At 6 foot 6 inches and 295 pounds, John could bench press me, which made him a worthy opponent.

The challenge began with a promising start.

Equipped with sweat pants and a sweat band, I arrived at Andy's on Spence Avenue around 1 p.m. yesterday. John was there ready and waiting in his World Champion T-shirt, along with a crowd of News-Argus and Andy's employees.

When they brought out the 50-ounce cheeseburger, fries and a drink, I could hear the soundtrack from "Jaws" beating in my head. I made the game-time decision to stand at the lunch counter and eat standing rather than sitting at a table facing John. I thought it would take me longer to get full.

I downed the first patty in 30 seconds. I don't even remember chewing it. Owner Kenney Moore, along with other Andy's employees, gave me tips throughout the contest, like sipping water with each bite to help it along. After the third patty, I switched to the fries, before finishing the fourth and most of the fifth patty.

I think the people there saw the wall I had hit.

"This is like climbing Mt. Everest," Moore said. "You're at the last base camp right now. This is that stretch right here. This is where you got to suck it up."

My editor Dennis Hill invoked an old Irish fight cry in hopes my ancestral pride would push me through to the end.

"Erin go bragh, Laura, Erin go bragh."

And reporter Ken Fine mixed in some "Karate Kid" quotes. "Show no mercy," he said. But it fell on deaf ears.

Around the 23-minute mark of the 30-minute challenge, after finishing his fries, drink and with only two of the six patties remaining, Penner's body told him in no uncertain terms that he was done with the competition, making me the automatic winner in the first of my challenges.

With that pressure off my back, my only objective was destroying the Big "A" Challenge. With seven minutes to go I had finished my fries and drink and about five of the six patties. I stared down at the patty I had left, and it stared right back.

I blinked first.

I will forever bow in defeat of the great Andy's challenge. It's hard to describe how I was feeling as the clock ticked down. My brain knew that only one patty and bun is essentially just like eating a regular cheeseburger. And seven minutes is more than enough time to accomplish it. But my body knew something different. It threatened to embarrass me in front of a crowd of people if I even attempted the last few bites.

In the end, my body still betrayed me -- just not in the restaurant -- which I still consider a small victory.

Looking back, I don't know what I would have done differently. I trained for two weeks eating upwards of 25 pounds of beef overall and gained 12 pounds for the competition. I drank large quantities of water to expand my stomach and chewed gum for hours on end to strengthen my jaw. I found a mentor at the Goldsboro Police Department, Investigator Doug Bethea, who beat the challenge and gave me tips. And even got a pep talk at the Cattlemen Association annual all-you-can-eat beef brisket social. But it just wasn't enough.

This is not the end of the road for me, a few good things came out of the competition. My new challenge starts today. The good folks at the Goldsboro Family YMCA have offered to help me slim down and get back into shape. I started this competition at 132 pounds and ended at 144. I'll be blogging about the training and dieting on www.NewsArgus.com.

Also, if you see a spotlessly clean car driving around Goldsboro, it's me.

John now has to wash my car by hand for the next three months.