Monday, September 4, 2017

2nd Annual Whataburger Challenge: Race Recap

Second Annual Whataburger Challenge
Labor Day – September 4, 2017
San Antonio, TX
Race Directors’ Race Report

Over the last few months, several email and Facebook invitations went out to several hundred people for the 2nd annual Whataburger Challenge.  In the end, there were 9 participants.  Nine.  Nine people were brave enough to attempt this monstrous task, which came with a high probability of failure and near certainty of suffering and intestinal misery.  Four of the nine participated last year and for some reason decided it was a good idea to come back; however, missing among these were the top 3 from last year.  This year there would be a brand new podium.
Calm before the storm
Mike Ruhlin, of Austin TX, was the clear favorite after dominating the Taco Cabana Challenge in May.  But hopes were high among the local runners that he could be upset.  A couple of race-day surprise entries included “The Sherriff” Porter and his teenage son Joe – the youngest-ever WB Challenge competitor.  On the other end of the spectrum were “Bleeding” Don Flynn and “Wimpy” Rich Mihalik, both in their 60s, the oldest-ever WB Challenge competitors, and as competitors soon learned, forces to be reckoned with.

Around 8am, the Whataburger manager requested a photo-op with the group, the RDs issued a few last-minute instructions, and the gluttony began.  “Sweet” Chris Russell co-opted the strategy of last year’s winner, Brian “Banjo McNaturepants” Ricketts, putting the fries inside the burger to maximize efficiency; this paid off, as Russell was 2nd to leave the first store.  But it was Scott “Rabber’s Delight” Rabb that headed out first, much to the surprise of fellow competitors.  Joe “Schmo” Schmal was right behind Russell, followed by favorite Ruhlin.  Koepke and the others were soon on the road as well.

Schmal caught up to Rabb after about 3 miles, but Rabb had a shortcut up his sleeve and broke off early to gain an advantage.  Unfortunately he didn’t look at a map before doing this and it cost him a few extra tenths of a mile, allowing Schmal to show up 1st in line at WB 2.
Imagine Schmo's frustration, stuck in this line!
Schmal lost his advantage, though, when he found himself stuck in a long line.  To add insult to injury, the kitchen crew mistakenly put cheese on his double-meat burger.  Schmal would go on to pitifully blame the cheese for his undoing later.  Rabb quickly regained his lead and was first to leave again.  Ruhlin plowed through his double very quickly and was soon on Rabb’s heels.  Russell was 4th in the restaurant and politely brought his pools of sweat outside for a picnic with pacer Sheila.  Upon arrival,  “Wimpy” Rich interestingly went straight to his crew vehicle where his loyal wife Jeanie offered support.  He seemed to arrive refreshed and ready to tackle the next 2 patties.  Flynn, the other “Grand Master” runner, also looked surprisingly relaxed and ready to eat.  Impressively, all but 2 runners were able to put away the #2 combo this year, showing the relative strength of this field.  Young Joe Porter and the Habanero Kid were forced to put their uneaten contents in the bag-of-shame to bring to the last restaurant for weigh-in.

Rabb, Schmal and Ruhlin arrived 1-2-3 at the third Whataburger; Ruhlin took a wrong turn on the way, earning some bonus distance over the 8.0 total miles involved in this contest.  But things took a drastic turn at this pivotal restaurant.  Rabb was continually leaving the restaurant, trying to walk off the discomfort and nausea caused by the 2 pounds of grease in his gut.  Schmal could only take tiny kid-sized bites of the man-sized triple-meat burger, only able to get them down by swallowing them like pills with a gulp of water.  Flynn arrived, followed by Russell, who was done – he declared that ordering a #3 would be a waste of money.  But then Porter and Mihalik arrived and ordered their #3.  When Russell saw Porter order, he knew that he had to pull his credit card out to avoid being one-upped by the Sherriff.  To his credit, he was able to eat enough to edge out the Sherriff by a tenth of a pound.

Meanwhile, outside of the store, the Rabb chronicles continued.  A small crowd gathered to see what would happen.  Finally, came the sound heard ‘round the world – Rabb unleashed a firehose of half-digested bread, meat and fries right next to videographer (and 2016 WB Challenge 3rd place finisher) Tom Bowling’s car.  A literal reversal of fortunes for the race frontrunner.

Wait for it . . . 
Back inside, Schmal was giving up, as Ruhlin was finishing his last fry – the Austinite had again captured an eat-and-run title on the mean streets of San Antonio.  He received a custom plaque, carved by Rockhopper and local artist Edward Sousa.  But the contest was not over.  Flynn and Mihalik were slowly but steadily downing that last burger, bit by bit.  As the clock struck 11am, both men had surged ahead of the younger competitors’ totals and were 2nd and 3rd, respectively, after the weigh-in.

Another successful eat-and-run challenge!  Special thanks to film crew Tom Bowling and Alex Collado.

Podium L to R: Don Flynn (2nd), Mike Ruhlin (1st), Rich Mihalik (3rd)
Wooden plaque hand-carved by Edward "The Hair" Sousa

Official Results
Time / Food remaining
Mike “The Ringer” Ruhlin
“Bleeding” Don Flynn
.36 lbs
“Wimpy” Rich Mihalik
.51 lbs
Joe “Schmo” Schmal
.63 lbs
“Sweet” Chris Russell
.90 lbs
Chris “The Sherriff” Porter
.99 lbs
Scott “Rabber’s Delight” Rabb
{puke @ WB 3}
Joe “The Deputy” Porter
.46 lbs @ WB 2
9 (F1)
Julie “Habanero Kid” Koepke
.83 lbs @ WB 2

Official Whataburger Challenge 2017 video, produced by Tom "Wrong Way" Bowling:

Joe Schmal and Julie Koepke, RDs

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