In an age when technology has made life easy, some people still thrive on challenges. On July 20 seven area residents went to Somerset, Wis., to treat themselves to the challenge of a lifetime.
It's called the Tough Mudder, and somewhere in the world there's one put on almost every week. Last week a team put together by Sharyce Baartman of Ruthton ran the kind of obstacle course usually reserved for special operations commandos. The course is about 12 miles long, a half-marathon. But it's over hilly county, uneven ground and contains obstacles with names like "the Berlin Wall," "Arctic Enema" and "Electroshock Therapy." Runners enter in teams, and the goal is not to finish first, but just to finish with all your teammates.
"I chose the Tough Mudder because it's pretty much all about camaraderie," Sharyce Baartman said. "In high school I was in volleyball and basketball, I've never done long distance, I've never been good at it. But a few years ago I reconnected with a friend on Facebook, she was a cheerleader and she was running half-marathons!"
Mudders Sharyce Baartman and Todd Miller negotiate the Electric Eel obstacle in the Tough Mudder obstacle course in Somerset, Wis., on July 20.
Sharyce Baartman began training and ran a half-marathon in Seattle, then thought, "What's next?" which turned out to be a Tough Mudder in Arizona last January.
She got to talking about it in church with Chris Determan from Tyler.
"Me and her talked about it and other people in our church got to hearing about it," Determan said. "When you're talking about things like 'Arctic Enema' and 'Electroshock Therapy' it's hard not to eavesdrop."
The first recruit was Sharyce's husband, Greg.
"I thought it was interesting but didn't want to make the commitment to train," Greg Baartman said. "But a couple guys from church wanted to do it so we made the commitment together."
They posted the word on Facebook and soon had a team of seven, larger than the recommended four-person teams.
The team trained in a gym and on the ski hill near Lake Benton. The reality, however, is another thing.
"It pushes you to your limits, it tests your fear," said team member Pete Hunsted of Marshall. "They've got ice, electric wires, in some events they'll even have fire you have to jump over. You'll have to crawl through dark tunnels. There's always risk, but the worst thing our team got was muscle cramps."
Like a military obstacle course, many of the obstacles are specifically designed so teammates have to help each other across. Single entries rely on the kindness of strangers and teams help each other.
And like a military obstacle course the dangers are real and all entrants have to sign waiver of liability forms in the event of serious injury, or death.
But in the end, the training paid off and they came through as a team.
"It was amazing," Sharyce Baartman said. "I saw guys who were really fit cramping up."