I am no stranger to challenge. When Matt and I decided to throw a marathon of Futurama in which we watch all four seasons and all four movies, in a row, after work on Friday, staying awake through the whole thing, it seemed only natural to heap on an extra challenge: drink 100 cups of coffee, like Fry does in the episode Three Hundred Big Boys (S04E16).
YouTube videos of other attempting this same feat were not encouraging (this video documents a typical experience). As a matter of fact, I could not find any accounts of anyone successfully completing this challenge. But I have plenty of stubbornness and just the right mixture of stupidity, intelligence, and patience. And though other people had attempt it and failed, I was fairly certain I could manage. I am better than them.
Being engineers, we made sure to exercise caution and data analysis before committing to the challenge. We calculated the LD50 of caffeine (approximately 100mg/kg, or about 10g for someone my size). We calculated the half-life of caffeine (approximately 4-6 hours), and the expected average caffeine per cup (about 75mg for the brew/size we were using). We even made a handy chart to estimate our total personal caffeine content at any one time taking the rate of consumption and decay into account. Turns out we would hit about 2g of caffeine, roughly equivalent to seven and a half tall Starbucks coffees. Reasonably below the lethal dose.
Starting at about 9pm on 8 March 2009, we began. The experience was an interesting one. To keep from dehydrating, I drank two cups of water for every cup of coffee. This resulted in many bathroom visits. Perhaps roughly twice each hour, or 80-100 times over the course of the marathon.
Matt and I also tried to take pictures at every cup. The pictures definitely went through phases of goofy, honest, and tired. Overall, I felt pretty great the whole time. I am no stranger, though, to sleeplessness or coffee, pacing, or challenge, so this was right up my alley.
Matt and I at the start. Boy were we chipper. That won’t last.
About 20 cups in. Still enthusiastic, but you can see we’re tired.
About 60 cups in. Goofiness is what sustains us.
Matt passed out on the couch and left me to complete it alone. Here I am, struggling, four cups from the end.
In the end, I was successful. What made my experience different from everyone else’s?
- Practice. I am good at sleeplessness. I’m sure many are, but the point is that this is an important skill. I also practiced drinking a liter of water an hour to make sure the sheer volume of liquid wouldn’t overwhelm me.
- Planning. We calculated the lethal dose and the half-life. We figured out where we were getting our 100 cups of coffee each (thanks greatly to Kimberly and her massive coffee chain which shall go unnamed for possible legal reasons that I don’t even want to consider).
- Sensibility. Don’t drink 100 cups at 20oz each. That’s just dumb. And don’t do it in 10 hours – what’s the point? And please, no matter what your amounts and time allotment, remember to pace yourself! This is seriously the key to most challenges. “Starting strong” and trying to get most of the challenge under your belt right away can be the most fatal mistake you’ll make. Three cups an hour – no more, no less, and you’ll get there in 40 hours with room to spare.
- Stupidity. Yes, this is an important skill for a challenge such as this. Without enough of it, I wouldn’t have undertaken the challenge at all. I guess I have Fry to thank for the inspiration on this one.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
I’m still not sure why, but yes. Yes it was.