MARYSVILLE — Many people will celebrate the Fourth of July with a hot dog or two.
Katie Prettyman plans to eat 18, buns and all. She’ll shove the franks in her mouth as fast as she can for 10 minutes.
You can watch the timed gorgefest live on ESPN.
Prettyman, 38, is competing in Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York. Thousands of fans are expected to attend the event that starts at 8 a.m. Pacific time on Monday. The 18 men and 10 women will compete separately in the contest that began in 1916, long before ESPN came on the scene.
This sport for competitive eaters can be hard to watch sometimes. You might never be able to eat a hot dog again.
The irony is that these athletes are trim — not built like Sumo wrestlers. Prettyman is 5-foot-5 and weighs 145. It takes training and determination to pull off this gastronomical feat.
“It’s sheer willpower,” she said.
This is Prettyman’s fourth time at Nathan’s.
At the 2020 contest, Prettyman ate 15 hot dogs in 10 minutes and placed third in the women’s class.
In 2019, she devoured 12.5. As a rookie in 2018, she ate 11 wieners.
“I’m hoping for a new personal best this year,” she said.
Prettyman ate a record, for her, 18 hot dogs in a recent gut-wrenching video for her YouTube channel, Beyond Seattle Eats, shot in a practice session at home. Her torso jiggled and her face at times grimaced as she steadfastly downed dog after dog.
It takes concentration and digestion.
“Mostly what I’m thinking about is continuing to chew and swallow,” he said. “You become acutely aware of your body’s digestive process.”
So, too, do those watching.
Prettyman is ranked 35th by Major League Eating, the world body that oversees about 70 professional eating contests that include hot dogs, Halloween candy, ramen noodles and oysters.
“I call myself the world’s OK-est competitive eater,” she said.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut holds the world record of 75 hot dogs. Miki Sudo is the women’s world record holder at 48.5.
As with any sport, there is technique: “Get the bun soggy and use that to chase the hot dog down,” Prettyman said.
You might not want to try that at Costco.
Prettyman moved from New Mexico to Washington in 2008 for a job on the railroad as a switchman-conductor. A furlough during the recession led to a change in career. She is regional volunteer services officer for the Northwest region of the Red Cross.
Competitive eating is her hobby. It pays for her travel and food bill. She also likes hiking and reading.
To not gain weight, she mostly practices by eating about 7 pounds of steamed vegetables and water in one sitting a few times a week.
“It’s low-calorie, so we’re talking broccoli and cauliflower, that kind of stuff,” she said.
Closer to the Nathan’s meet, she starts eating a few packs of hot dogs.
She said she’s always been able to eat a lot. She was fascinated by “Man v. Food,” the Travel Channel series launched in 2008 about eating challenges at restaurants, such as a 151-ounce milkshake and an 8-pound sloppy joe.
”The first thing I did was the 12-omelette challenge at Beth’s Cafe in Seattle,” she said.
In 2017, she started watching YouTube videos of competitive eaters.
“I decided, as my New Year’s resolution for 2018, that I was going to become a competitive eater,” she said. “I wasn’t very competitive as a kid. I did running and track. I tend to choke when it comes to a race or performance. Lots of disappointment as a kid. I never won a trophy.”
She’s made up for it since.
She placed second in a taco-eating contest in 2018 held by Live in Everett. She took sixth place in a sweet-corn eating contest in Florida and a tamale-eating contest in Texas.
Her daughter, Isabeau, 14, won first place in the Snohomish pie-eating contest and Marysville’s strawberry shortcake contest.
Prettyman isn’t the champ of those.
“The funny thing is, they are hands free. It’s a lot harder when you are just sticking your face in it and eating it really fast,” she said. “I usually come in second.”
Her husband, Blake, and son Bishop, 16, prefer to chow down on regular portions at the dining table.
They don’t like to watch her eat.
“They think it’s kind of gross,” she said.
Prettyman said you can invite her to a barbecue without worry.
“That’s the question all competitive eaters get: ‘Are we going to have enough food?’” she said. “We eat normally most of the time.”