One week ago, I ate 15 tacos for lunch. Since then, I've had countless people ask me about the experience. Rather than hold a news conference, let me try to explain with a post on this here blog. This post will be a brilliant combination of "old" RandBall blogging style (writing about something ridiculous because why not) and newer style (lists! People love lists!). Here we go:
1) I couldn't really remember how this even started, so I went back and checked Twitter. Basically, my good friend @JohnSharkman postponed our Taco Tuesday lunch at Taco John's until Wednesday last week (negating the discounted price of $.89 per taco). Instead, he had a fancy lunch, and I was pretty steamed (OK, not really). So I asked him on Twitter if he thought I could eat $72 worth of tacos (the price of his Tuesday lunch). He said he'd buy lunch if I could do that. Stupidly, my counter was to say that I bet I could eat 15 tacos. He said I couldn't. I reiterated that I could. Away we went, kind of.
2) I have no idea why I chose 15. My typical order at Taco John's is five tacos — a number that's still maybe a little high, but I try to hold myself accountable by running as many miles in a day as the number of tacos I eat. Jumping from five to 15 — triple the amount! How stupid! — is like going to an auction and jumping a bid from $100 to $300. Slow down! But it was too late. The number was out there.
3) Then again, I relish a challenge. Sometimes you just like to know you can do something. I don't like being told I can't do something. And strangely enough, the number 15 factors into a previous recent example. I've run five marathons in my life, with the most recent coming in 2015. Since then, I've continued to run as a way to stay in shape and relieve stress. My usual distance is four-to-five miles. I did the Twin Cities 10 Mile last October; from that point through mid-April, I hadn't run more than five miles at any point. And then on one glorious spring day, I decided to do a long run. I kind of lost track of distance and time. More than two hours later, I arrived exhausted back at my house having run 15.02 miles (I even ran around the block at the end just to get to 15). What's wrong with me?
4) Oh, right. I like a good challenge. And also, sometimes you just want to do something stupid and memorable. The life of a 40-year-old father of two is filled with a lot of routines and predictability. I've always liked getting out of my comfort zone. Eating 15 tacos was certainly out of my comfort zone.
5) So Wednesday arrived, and I skipped breakfast just in case I was really going to go through with it. I wasn't even sure until I arrived at Taco John's with Sharkman and Dana Wessel whether I was really going to try it. But then Sharkman was ordering and he looked at me and asked what I wanted. I just blurted out, "15 tacos." This was the point of no return, really.
6) I wish I had planned some sort of greater good (hunger awareness? I don't know) to go along with the challenge. When you think about it, eating 15 tacos is excessive and kind of gross. That's not really how I try to live my life. But I allowed myself an exception to that rule.
7) Have you ever seen 15 hard shell tacos on a tray? They pretty much fill up the whole thing. They looked fuller than the usual Taco Tuesday tacos, but that was probably just my mind playing tricks on me. I arranged them in two rows (one of seven, one of eight), got some hot sauce and water and then started eating. Quickly.
8) The first five were fine. All the way up to nine, in fact, felt pretty routine. Numbers 10, 11 and 12 weren't ideal but they went down pretty easily. I was no longer hungry (no kidding), but the legend was building. Sharkman and Wessel were providing social media updates, and the response was overwhelming. Taco 13 went down slow, but OK. The 14th taco was when I started to experience some major regret. I was sweating and did not feel good. But I made it through. There was just one more staring at me. I spent a good five minutes staring at it before taking a bite. I honestly didn't know if I could do it. But you don't get 14 tacos into a 15 taco challenge and say, "I'm good." So I persevered. A bite here. A little bit of shell there. Slowly, but surely, it disappeared. "Can we call this one good," I asked the table, with nothing but scraps in the wrapper. Sharkman said sure, as long as I took one more bite of lettuce. Can you even imagine? I would have punched him if I could have moved.
9) Eating 15 tacos is nothing and everything like running a marathon. It's like a canceling out process when it comes to the health benefits (and no, I didn't run 15 miles that day). But the mental hurdle is harder than the physical one.
10) When I was all done, and everyone at the table was sitting around in stunned silence, a Taco John's employee came over to congratulate me. Wessel asked if I won anything. She said, "I don't know. A taco?" Amazing. (Taco John's subsequently tweeted at me because of all the social media traffic from Wessel and Sharkman. They said they're sending me something "big." I hope it's not 15 tacos).
11) The walk back to my office through the skyway was not pleasant. I cannot stress this enough: I did not feel good. But it only took about 30 minutes to start feeling relatively normal again. Maybe I have a gift? Then again, it's not like I ate 126 tacos in eight minutes like Joey Chestnut recently did at Mystic Lake to break the world record. I’m a recreational taco eater. I’ll leave the records to the professionals.
12) My favorite subsequent moments: 1) Someone I know who works in sports PR called a day later and said he had something he needed to ask me and he understood if I couldn't talk about it. He and I have a pretty good relationship and I assumed it was something to do with something I had written that he didn't like. Instead, he and a colleague (on speaker phone) started peppering me with questions about the tacos. 2) Another friend randomly sent me a T-shirt that says "Taco King." 3) All of your tweets. No, really, they've been amazing. I had no idea people would be so into this dumb thing I did.
13 Yes, I've eaten tacos since then. I had three of them on Saturday at Maya. They were delicious. I'm hardly scarred for life. I still have love in my heart and stomach for tacos.
14 No, I have not had a Taco John's taco since then. Yes, I will at some point.
15 No, I will never eat 15 tacos again in my life. But bacon …