Race Recap: Big South Fork Dash
Kentucky hadn’t been on my race radar until recently when the Explore Kentucky Initiative started a race series across the state in some beautiful areas. That’s how I found myself at the series finale, competing in a 14 mile loop course in the Big South Fork Wilderness where Lake Cumberland backs up the Big South Fork River.
With temperatures still below freezing at the start line, the 60-70 racers lined up in waves to participate in the various distance races. I would be competing in the longest of the options, the 14 miler. Next me, I found Scott Cummins, Lee Doppleman and others fresh off impressive finishes in the Chattajack. Scott and I agreed to a gentlemen start when the gun went off, and we gently settled into a comfortable race paces.
The Big South Fork gorge immediately opened up into glorious sunlight after the first corner. Huge cliffs lined the gorge on both sides while boulders the sizes of cars and houses, littered the gorge floor and river. With Autumn in full effect, a stream of leaves floated downstream along side us just looking to hitch a ride on our exposed rudders.
Meanwhile, my pace at the front of the race was slowly being elevated. Our average pace from the start was close to 13kph and eventually the others dropped off and let me paddle away solo. I did a 20 minute tempo interval to ensure no one would come back at me before I dared to look over my shoulder, at which time it was clear I’d be paddling alone the rest of the day.
5 miles in and the first turn buoy popped into view after a beautiful cliffed out section of river where I saw a large cat, probably a bobcat, bounding over the rocks at river level when I startled him. I passed Scott and Lee coming the other way. 7 miles ahead of me was the next buoy, which allowed me to catch up with some of the racers from the other distances and share some words of encouragement while enjoying the incredible vistas of the Big South Fork gorge. Rounding that last buoy and completing the last 2 miles flew buy as I zipped past the final racers and enjoyed the remaining views the gorge would give me.
This well run race show cased some of the incredible beauty that Kentucky has to offer and I’m looking forward to returning to more of the series events in 2018. While in the area we also had a chance to check out nearby Cumberland Falls, a 68ft waterfall known as the Niagra of the South. We also hiked into Yahoo Falls another waterfall tumbling 113ft into an incredibly lush bowl deep in the Kentucky wilderness.