‘It’s good to come back’

For the first time since his left knee was operated on 11 months ago, Nic Clark put it to the test in Saturday’s Haena to Hanalei 8 Mile Run.

It passed.

The Kalaheo man overcame the hills, the rain and a strong challenge to win the 36th annual race put on by the Hanalei Canoe Club on the North Shore. Clark placed first in 47 minutes, 16 seconds, followed closely by Jacob Windauer of Polson, Mont., in 47:26. Jimmy McDougall of Kapaa was third in 51:04.

“It’s good to come back,” said Clark, who won Haena to Hanalei for the third time.

The surgery to repair a torn meniscus left Clark wondering just how solid and sound his knee would be when he ran hard again. Saturday, while there was some pain, he proved he still had the speed.

“I didn’t know if I would be fast again,” he said. “But I felt good out there.”

He held off a late charge by Windauer.

“I saved enough to scrimp by in the last half mile,” Clark said.

And how did it feel to win this race again?

“It felt better,” he said, smiling during the awards ceremony. “I’m getting older than these kids.”

All told, there were 251 runners and 162 walkers in the eight-mile race that started at Ke‘e Beach and ended near the Hanalei Pier on a cloudy, rainy morning. Eighty-seven people finished the 5K and 42 keiki completed the one-mile youth run.

Alex Dutcher of Lihue led the women in 52:35 in the eight-mile run.

Patrick Thompson of Kekaha won the eight-mile walk in 1:31:42, while Mark Goodman of Kilauea was second in 1:33:19.

In the 5K, Alex Dunn of Connecticut placed first in 18:16. Victoria Hennessy of Hanalei was the first woman in 24:14.

Lucas Sumnmerhays of Kalaheo won the youth mile in 6:23, followed by Zachary Edwards of Koloa in 6:28.

Despite the steady downpour that soaked everyone, many runners finished with big smiles.

Sophia Renee Rodrigues of Kilauea raised her right arm in triumph and was beaming as she ran the final yards.

It was only her second race, and she finished the eight miles in 1:26:06.

“I think that’s pretty good,” she said, still smiling.

Rodrigues, a chiropractor who operates Aloha Sophia Wellness in Kapaa, said the race was “incredible.”

“I felt like I was so grateful to be alive and to be able to run that without any cars and to be on this island,” she said. “I was just so grateful to be alive, so happy.”

Yvette Lavigne of Los Angeles, a top finisher for years in the eight-mile walk, did it again Saturday, coming in eighth in 1:43:06.

The 76-year-old noted she was recovering from a fractured toe and this was her first time being able to walk in a month. No matter. Not even the steady and steep climb up Lumahai Hill bothered her.

“I didn’t even feel the hills, I was so focused,” she said.

Lavigne arrived on island Tuesday and visited her friend, Donna Schulze.

“I wouldn’t miss this. It’s the people,” she said, looking around at the finishers milling about and chatting.

Barbara Batley of Princeville walked the course with friend Laurie Brammer. The two finished together, with Brammer’s arm over Batley’s shoulders as they both grinned.

“It’s nice because it’s for these guys,” Batley said of the Hanalei Canoe Club.

Brammer, visiting from Phoeniz, loved it, too.

“Beautiful scenery. People are always so friendly,” she said.

Mary Mair, secretary of the Hanalei Canoe Club and race organizer, said the community support is what makes Haena to Hanalei special. Club members volunteer to rise early and set things up and prepare the pancake breakfast for runners and walkers, adults and kids come out for the fun runs, and residents are OK with the road closures.

“We’re really appreciative of their understanding,” Mair said.

Palmer Hafdahl of Lihue enjoyed the race in the rain. He noted there were waterfalls to the right of runners, the ocean to the left, and puddles to jump over, run around or just splash through.

“It was a water race and a great run,” he said. “The view is to die for.”

And even better, Hafdahl felt great.

“I finished strong for a guy that got 1:33,” he said, laughing.

There’s one more thing that keeps him coming back each of the last seven years.

“This breakfast is something to look forward to after eight miles,” he said.

Race results are at http://www.pseresults.com.

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