He's one Tough Mudder

His mantra: ‘I don’t care if they drag me across the finish line’

Dave Didier of Port Washington (right) and Tough Mudder teammates (left) Kyle McGee of Port and John Magnusson of Grafton have been training for the September event at Road America in Elkhart Lake. Team camaraderie is one of Didier’s favorite parts of the race. Left photo by Sam Arendt. Right photo courtesy of Eric Didier.
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

It doesn’t take talking to Dave Didier too long before he brings up Tough Mudder.

Didier’s face lights up and his voice picks up. He excitedly describes what has become his passion.

“If you meet me on the street, this will come up in conversation,” the lifelong Port Washington resident said.

Didier’s first Tough Mudder obstacle race was in 2013 in Oshkosh. He figured he’d give it a shot after hearing about it.

It rained all the way on the trip to the course, which made conditions that fit the race’s name.

Didier just hoped to make it through.

“I took a knee and said a little prayer. ‘Please Lord, let me survive this event,’” he said.

The Lord granted more than that.

“I had the most fun and met crazy people,” Didier said. “The feeling of accomplishment was just amazing.”

Didier was hooked on competing in the endurance events that feature 10 to 12-mile courses with challenging obstacles.

He has been part of a Tough Mudder race every year since, either alone or with his team and either as a volunteer, participant or both. The cooperative effort and meeting new people are more of an appeal than the obstacle-laden challenge itself.

“It’s not just running 12 miles. It’s about building camaraderie with your other Mudders,” Didier said.

Didier grows his team in many ways, and he’s not afraid to approach strangers. He once saw someone at the gym wearing a 2013 Tough Mudder shirt. He asked her about it and learned she and her fiancée wanted to do another event but couldn’t find a team.

“Boom, you’re on my team,” Didier said.

For Didier, preparing for Tough Mudder is more than about making friends and completing the course, however. The team gets together for hockey games laser tag and Milwaukee Brewers games.

“These are lifelong friends,” Didier said.

But Tough Mudder has provided more than friends. It is a motivating force for Didier’s journey to better health.

Eight years ago, Didier lost his parents and was going through a rough time. He grew to 235 pounds.

“One day I looked down and my belly was so big I couldn’t see my feet,” he said. He thought, “’I can’t go on like this anymore.’”

Didier began eating better and working out five days per week. He lost 40 pounds, and a photo of his larger self keeps him motivated, along with completing Tough Mudders.

Three years ago, he even ran a half marathon. About three-fourths the way through the 13.1-mile course, Didier hit a mental block.

“‘There’s no way I can finish,’” he thought, but then determined, “I have to.’”

Didier finished and decided he would never do that again. But he wasn’t happy with his time of more than three hours.

“The next day I woke up and said, ‘I have to do this again. I have to better myself.’”

He went back to training and last year completed the race in 2 hours, 42 minutes, knocking 22 minutes off of his time and reaching is goal of finishing in less than three hours.

But Tough Mudder is where Didier’s passion lies, and he is driven to finish each one. He is on a personalized program at Anytime Fitness in Port Washington to prepare for the next event Sept. 8-9 at Road America in Elkhart Lake.

“Now I have a mindset of ‘OK, this is what we’re doing. Don’t get in my way,’” he said. “I will not be deterred. I don’t care if they drag me across that finish line.”

Didier has added a new role with Tough Mudder. On Dec. 13, he received an email saying he was accepted to become one of barely 200 ambassadors in North America. He was pumped.

“At work, I ran around the store in circles,” he said.

“They saw my passion and social media posts.”

Ambassadors promote the sport and attract more participants. Didier is a perfect fit.

Many of his team members, including Didier’s son Eric, are much younger, but age doesn’t matter in Tough Mudder.

“The kids on my team are people I would hang around at their age,” Didier said.

Obstacles often play on people’s fears, and nobody is required to complete them.

Didier, whose team always volunteers to help at Tough Mudders, once saw a woman spend 15 minutes pondering the Kong obstacle that has people swing across rings high in the air.

“She backed down. She walked around it. There’s no shame,” Didier said.

One of Didier’s nemeses was Everest, requiring participants to run up an inclined wall and grab onto outstretched hands of others to be pulled over the top. He tried three times in his first event and failed.

The next year, he made it, pulled up by both his hands and one leg. Now, his team stays on top of Everest for 30 minutes helping people up.

“The fear of God, the look in their eyes is the best,” Didier said.

Tough Mudder offers a 5-kilometer version, a half Mudder and the full 10 to 12-mile event. It has competitive races for professionals and cash prizes, but most are cooperative.

“They’re there to help you. Everybody is there for the same reason: to accomplish their goals,” Didier said.

Participants motivate each other, some just by their presence.

“I met a guy 75 years old who did it,” Didier said. “There are people in wheelchairs who do this.”

Crossing that finish line at the end yields hugs and exhilaration.

“You just want to stand there and go, ‘Yeah!’ It’s hard to explain,” Didier said.

The event does linger for a while.

“The next day you’re sore. I don’t care how strong you are. Mostly, it’s upper body. You’re pulling a lot and you’re being pulled a lot,” he said.

“It’s a good sore.”

Didier’s ultimate goal is to participate in the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour challenge that has people going through as many laps as they want. They may stop to eat and sleep.

Whether he does that race or not, Didier continues with his healthy lifestyle.

He doesn’t smoke or drink, and he follows the rule of eating healthy 80% of the time and anything he wants — chocolate is his weakness — 20% of the time. It helps, he said, that his wife Laura is a great cook who often prepares chicken and fish.

That adjustment alone has made him feel much better.

“I’m not lugging an extra 40 pounds,” he said.

He is, however, continuing to do Tough Mudders as long as possible.

“Going forward, there’s no end to this. I will do this until I can’t. My team will go on,” he said.

Didier wants to get more people involved. He often quotes the Tough Mudder emcee Sean Corvelle, who says, “When’s the last time you did something for the first time?”

At 9 a.m. Saturday, May 5 and 19, at Anytime Fitness in Port Washington, training sessions will be held for the Tough Mudder. Didier will be handing out paraphernalia and goodies at a table outside, and Anytime Fitness trainers will be available. Registration is not required.

For more information, visit toughmudder.com.

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