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Three, Two, One... EAT!

06/10/2014 15:43 BST | Updated 06/12/2014 10:59 GMT

"Come on Daddy, don't do a sick. Come on Daddy, don't do a sick."

It was with this chant from my kids ringing in my ears that I take my place among nine other contestants at a chilli eating competition at a festival during the summer. Hundreds of chill enthusiasts stopped shopping for half an hour and joined the audience to watch us suffer.

I've spent much of 2014 in search of Chill Britain for a book about the burgeoning sub-culture of chilli obsessives across England, Scotland and Wales for whom the hotter and fruitier the better.

I've made chilli chocolate with the Red Hot Chilli Fella, tasted hot foods and drunk west country cider with the Clifton Chilli Club, made hot sauce with the Mushemi Fire hot sauce company, planted dozens of chilli plants at the Suffolk Chilli Farm and visited the UK's biggest importer of chilli powder.

I've even tried - and failed to eat - the UK's hottest curry at the Kismot Indian restaurant in Edinburgh.

As I've met and come to like some of the crazy chilli obsessives around Britain, it slowly became clear that I couldn't just watch from the sidelines.

Sometime or other, I was going to have to get well and truly stuck in where the hot stuff was. I was going to have to join a chilli eating competition.

Here are the rules: If you stand up and walk away, you're out. If you drink any liquid, including the soothing glass of milk in front of you, you're out. And if you puke - in front of hundreds of spectators, including your family and friends - you're out.

We'll be given a succession of hotter and hotter chillies. He or she who lasts the longest in the competition will be the winner.

The first chillies were easy enough: tasty, chewy and only offering a slight burn at the end. For someone who likes chilli, they were next to nothing. For the average Joe who likes a Jalapeno on their pizza, they probably wouldn't hurt too much either.

With three chillies down, it was only then that my fellow competitors and I begin to suffer. A long green finger chilli instantly sets my mouth and throat on fire, and it's not long until I'm starting to sweat and hiccup. A teenage competitor pulls out, the first to fall.

The next two chillies come rapidly - a very hot Super Chilli and a Bangalore Whippets Tail - these are chillies far hotter than most would add to their food. They're the ingredients for many Asian hot dishes, and not something you'd normally be stupid enough to eat raw.

But eat we do. I pile more heat into an already hot mouth, and decide I can take it as long as I can keep focussed.

But then the compere announces the famous Scotch Bonnet, the super hot chilli used in most spicy Caribbean cookery. It's skin is thick and hard to eat, and it's as big as a baby's fist. I manage to chew it down, trying to ignore the pain all around my mouth.

But my fellow competitors are dropping like flies. A few take the milk and walk away, including two blokes who are twice the size of me and look five times as hard. A few other competitors are sick into the cardboard tubs kindly provided to them by Red Cross volunteers.

Now there are just three of us. We're trying to eat a Chocolate Habanero, one of the hottest chillies grown in the UK.

Laura is really struggling, but the crowd (against the Red Cross' advice) is egging her on. She bites it down, then promptly brings it right back up again into a cardboard container.

Two left.

The chillies just get manically hot from here and I'm starting to hallucinate. It's no longer about the heat, but just stopping the convulsions my body has gone into from the (supposedly) pain-easing endorphins rushing around the body. They're not doing a great job, and as we eat a Green Ghost Pepper, then a Dorset Naga (also known as Bhut Jolokia), it's like I'm watching the competition from afar, down a long tunnel.

Kevin and I are both clinging to the table to stop our arms from shaking. Approaching the end of the next chilli, a Naga Viper, I'm ready to give up. But now my wife is cheering from the sidelines: 'Finish It'.

I put the milk down and chew down the chilli. It's against the will of a body that can no longer take the heat and the munching, but some how I manage to stomach it.

But Kevin is hanging on too. He'll crack any minute, I've convinced myself. But then I hear the compere announce what - at that time - sound like the worst words I've ever heard in my life.

Trinidad Scorpion.

This is the second hottest chilli on the planet. It's me or Kevin for the final round. Whoever can eat this one will emerge victorious.

I'm down a deep tunnel, the crowd go silent and I pledge to do my best.

But in the end it happens without my thinking. I take half the chilli and chew it, then my arm reaches for the milk and I gulp it down. I've lost. Kevin is victorious.

I don't do a sick, but I do have to spit chilli-flavoured milk into a cardboard bowl. As I regain my composure I congratulate Kevin as he's handed his prize.

It's a hamper full of chilli products including some of the hottest chilli sauces on the planet. If he's feeling anything like I am, I reckon it's the last thing in the world he wants right now.

I go home and lie down in a dark room for the rest of the day.

>>> Gideon Burrows is author of Chilli Britain: A Hot & Fruity Adventure, published this week.