Schenectady County

Run the Ridge event has racers, staff scrambling

It’s not easy to complete an obstacle course that requires running, crawling through mud and trenche

It’s not easy to complete an obstacle course that requires running, crawling through mud and trenches, walking tightropes, climbing steep slopes and jumping over fire, to name a few.

The course at Maple Ski Ridge’s second annual Run the Ridge is not your typical 5K. But while event organizer Kate Michener had no plans to run the course herself, her Saturday was far from a leisurely walk.

“The men’s room is trashed,” she said from a seat inside the Rotterdam ski lodge.

Wisps of hair stuck out of her ponytail and curled around her face. Three of the five heats had gone off without a hitch so far. But by 11 a.m., she found herself inside an office Googling where to rent portable toilets locally.

“I can’t get a hold of anyone with a Port a Potty,” she said, visibly flustered. “Our water filters are clogging up from sediment in the ponds. The men’s bathroom is clogged. We have 400 people here in the wintertime. How is this happening?”

Volunteers streamed in and out of Michener’s office, grateful to find her in one place for so long.

“Someone twisted an ankle,” said a man with a local fire company logo on his shirt. “I could grab her some ice. That’s probably all she needs. Do you have an ice pack?”

Michener found a warm one on her desk and tossed it aside. She picked up her walkie-talkie and asked for some first aid at the front of the lodge. A few chirps and static later, and she could focus on the task at hand again: the Port a Potty.

More than 400 people from around the Capital Region, and some from as far away as New Hampshire, showed up for the mud run Saturday in old shorts and sneakers, bandannas and war paint. They began the 3.1-mile course with a smile and a look of determination, but in no time were grimacing as they made their way up the steep ski trails toward the first challenge: a ladder climb.

The obstacles were varied. There was a seven-story hay bale hill, mud pits, water slides, doghouse climbs, hanging tires, fire jumps, tight ropes, trenches and more. A crowd favorite was the literal Dumpster dive, which entailed climbing up into a trash bin filled with cold water and jumping out the other side.

There was no way Katie Pigliaviento was not showing up this year, since she lives just up the road and has seen Run the Ridge signs all over town for weeks now. Plus, she participated last year and considers crawling through mud the type of activity friends should join her for.

“There was one part where you had to pull yourself up a hill with a rope,” she said, her eyes wide. “That was the hardest. And then, of course, I didn’t know there was going to be fire at the finish line, so yeah, you had to jump over fire.”

The 18-year-old ran track in high school, but running while covered in mud weighs you down, she confirmed. Your shoes get waterlogged and everything is slippery.

Tyler Lirette, 23, said his shoes felt like 10-pound weights.

“It’s not bad as long as they keep you wet, but when it starts drying, it feels awkward,” he said. “And try to avoid getting it on your face.”

Lirette is staying in Niskayuna until his General Electric training in field engineering is done in December. He moved up from New Orleans a few months ago, having spent his youth running track and playing football. Saturday was his first-ever mud run, though.

“I’m not used to these hills,” he said, with an exhausted laugh at the finish line. “The most difficult obstacle, though, was that little ladder climb toward the end because you’re already tired and it’s like, ‘Oh my god, really?’ ”

Lexie Holmes has athletic blood, as well, having played soccer and basketball in high school. The 18-year-old Amsterdam woman was drawn to the mud run, though, because sometimes she just craves a little challenge.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said at the finish line, her mud-covered and water-drenched clothes slicked tight against her skin. “There are a lot of Army people doing it and a lot of people who really like it, so when you’re out there, you hear them all cheering for each other, and you just get energized.”

Familiar military songs rang out along the course, perhaps because the mud run draws men and women from all walks of military life. Proceeds benefit the Albany Vet Center, and the prize for finishing is a souvenir dog tag.

When Michener gets caught up in all the crazed tasks that come along with organizing a large, muddy event, she calms herself down by remembering why it’s all worth it.

“I liked seeing the first race go off,” she said. “It was like, between my sister and I, it was a high five. We got it done. Of course, there are 110 tweaky things that are happening in between, but that is the highlight for me. Everybody was where they were supposed to be, and they were all set. The Vet Center was here. The Air National Guard and the Army Reserves have crews here, and they were happy. That was good for me.”

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