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Hometown Pineapple Goodness!


Keith Snodgrass captures nervous athletes waiting for the start of the 37th annual Pineapple Man Triathlon on June 4, 2023 at Rykman Park in Melbourne Beach, FL

With the pandemic finally behind us, athletes both new and seasoned were ready to take on the 37th annual Pineapple Man triathlon on June 4 at Ryckman Park in Melbourne Beach sponsored by the Melbourne Beach Rotary Club.

 

The now .25-mile swim, 12-mile bike and 3.1-mile run drew close to 400 finishers, up 50% from last year’s numbers. The Rotarians are working hard to bring the race back to the glory days when registration closed out early due to  high demand.

 

In a nod to early Melbourne Beach commerce, Overall, Masters and age group winners have always received sweet, juicy pineapples along with their awards. This year those with the fastest run, bike and swim splits also received the fruity goodness.

 

The iconic local race is one of Florida’s oldest multisport events and the challenge of the course combined with the hometown, family-oriented atmosphere has drawn at least three generations of athletes to the swim start in the Indian River Lagoon.

 

Meet a few of this year’s finishers.

 

FRUIT SMOOTHIES FOR DAYS

Indian Harbour Beaches Ed Donner captures his SIXTH victory at the 37th annual Pineapple Man Triathlon at Ryckman Park in Melbourne Beach on June 4. The former elite Ironman athlete covered the course in 56 minutes and 59 seconds. Keith Snodgrass photo.

Good thing the Donner family likes pineapples!

 

Ed Donner, the father of two boys and husband to Kaitlin, returned to their Indian Harbour Beach home laden with three of the spikey-top fruits after earning the overall victory as well as the fastest swim and bike splits at this year’s race.

 

The 47-year-old Donner Wealth Management principal blazed the .25-mile swim, 12-mile bike and 3.1-mile run course in fifty-six minutes and fifty-nine seconds, 3:58 ahead of second place finisher Jetson “Jett” Swayze of Longmont, CO, who hit the line in 1:00:57.

 

While Donner raced alone from the front to claim last year’s victory - by more than five-minutes - the former elite Ironman finisher began in wave two this year, three minutes behind those who started in the first.

 

“I had to change tactics because I was racing for the podium and not age group awards,” he said. “I watched the first wave go off and I could see the swimming wasn’t B.J. (Graham) or collegiate fast. I knew it was in my fitness level.”

 

Donner avoided contact with others as he churned through the waters of the Indian River Lagoon, swimming straight lines and going wide on buoy two. He hit T1 in 6:54 and received some race intel from Kaitlin.

 

“There were 14 bikes in front of me,” he said. “I wanted to get to the front by the end of the bike because you never know who has showed up.”

 

“At the (bike) turn-around there were two guys in front of me. I heard I was 30 and ten seconds behind them so I put the hammer down the last half. I lost some time, though, getting stuck behind a car going five miles-per-hour before it turned. I had to slow from 26-27mph to five.”

 

Coming out of T2, Donner was on the hunt for the one guy left in front – Colorado’s Jett Swayze.

 

“I caught him and hoped we could work together to lessen the pain to the finish,” he said.

 

Swayze could hear Donner approaching.

 

“I had met Ed the day before at the New Wave swim preview and had heard that he is the local fast guy,” said Swayze. “I heard squishy footsteps coming up beside me and knew it was him. He asked me if I wanted to run with him but I didn’t want to blow up.”

 

That’s when Donner’s head chatter got louder.

 

“It had taken three minutes to catch up,” he said. “You never feel like it’s over, though. I could cramp, my mind was saying stop, you don’t feel good. Plus, it is never in the bank. Daniel Moore ran a 15:30 here in 2020.” (Donner won the 2020 event, with Moore placing third.)

 

Donner pushed the noise back turning in a 19:07 5K to win the race. That could have given him a fourth pineapple as it was the fastest triathlon run split. However, Pineapple Man Duathlon winner, Luis Pou ran an 18:41, garnering two fat juicy fruits – one for the overall du victory; the other for fastest run split.

 

This was Pineapple Man victory number SIX for Donner. And, at 47-years-old, his times remain remarkably consistent. His victories on this new course have been 56:54 (2020), 56:55, (2022, there was no 2021 event due to Covid) and this year’s 56:59.

 

“I’m not talented,” he said. “It’s a process and I train 12 to 15 hours a week. It’s consistency. Nothing gets in the way of a session – no excuses, fatigue, late nights, or personal issues. I check the box twice a day.”

 

FAMILY AFFAIR


Women's winner Mary Swayze, who also finished eighth overall, gets a surprise hug from her husband, Jett, who finished second overall. Photo courtesy of Keith Snodgrass.

Winning the women’s race in 1:05:33 and placing eighth overall was just the icing on the cake for Lakemont Colorado’s Mary Swayze. The 39-year-old Physical Therapist had come to Florida with husband, Jett, to support her in-laws, Leo and Kristen Swayze in their races.

 

“Kristen has been doing tris for a while but this was Leo’s first,” said the level one USAT triathlon coach and two-time Kona finisher.  “They have been telling us how amazing this race is. I coached Leo and we wanted to be here to share the experience with them.”

 

As all the women began in the same wave, Swayze had a pretty good idea of where she was during the race.

 

“I knew that I came out of the water a couple of people behind,” she said. “I knew with that straight out-and-back stretch on the bike I could see where they were.”

 

Melbourne’s Joanna Dagenais, 36 and Sanford’s Kerry Simmons, 57, both entered T1 in 7:41 followed by Swayze in 8:10.

 

“I caught one on the bike and one going into T2,” Swayze said. “I was excited but knew I had to run my own race. Running at sea level was refreshing.”

 

After finishing a winners’ video interview with race organizers, Mary and Jett waited to cheer in Kristen, who won the 35-39 age group in 1:13:36 and Lou who knocked out a 1:19:28 in the 40-44 age group. The local Swayzes are from Melbourne beach and own LKC Honey

 

Both Mary and Jett Swayze agreed the Pineapple Man - especially experienced with their family - was incredibly special.

 

“We’ll be back next year,” said Jett. “I’ve also got some unfinished business with Mr. Ed.”

 


Race winner, Ed Donner, poses with the Swayze clan and friends. Left to right are Jett Swayze, who finished second OA, Jett's brother, Leo Swayze, who finished his first triathlon; Leo's wife Kristen, who won the 35-39 division, wife, Mary, who won OA female and friends Brandon Butler and Christopher Falce. Photo courtesy Keith Snodgrass.

PASSION IGNITED

Ellen Prescott was “so nervous” when she signed up for the New Wave triathlon camp to help her prepare for Pineapple Man - her first triathlon.

 

“I didn’t think I could do it,” said the 38-year-old instructional designer and mother-of -three who moved to Satellite Beach from Germany with her husband last August. “I was so apprehensive about the swim because I was barely able to even get to the end of a 25-yard pool.

 

Thankfully, skilled coaches and the genuine camaraderie of the other 22 campers helped Prescott walk through her fears.

 

 “They really alleviated my stress, especially in open water where I was worried about sharks and alligators,” she said.  “There was always at least one person who would stay back and encourage me.”

 

New Wave head coach, Kaitlin Donner, was impressed with the inclusiveness and work ethic of those in the camp.

 

“It was one of the most supportive, encouraging and inclusive camps I have coached,” said Donner, who is also head coach for the Space Coast Runners running camps. “Each week everyone showed up motivated to not only do the workout but to learn, improve and genuinely share each other’s successes.

 

Prescott’s gained new confidence with every camp workout.

 

“At the Rotary Park swims, Kaitlin and Lauren (Helton) really took time to work with me on my stroke. Annette (Pallowick) video-taped me at the pool and also gave me tips on how to improve.”

 

Prescott was pleased to learn that you can take a break during the swim.

 

“Also, I had always thought you had to keep swimming (freestyle) in the race,” she said. “I was told I could take a break or use a different stroke. When I got out on the racecourse, there were people floating on their backs or doing breaststroke.”

 

“The other thing that had me doubting was that I only had a mountain bike but the others assured me that many of them had started that way. I am so glad they talked me into it.”

 

A triumphant Prescott crossed the finish line in 1:52:34 to the cheers of her coaches and fellow campers.

 

“I saw so much progress each time we met, and getting to see everyone show off the hard work race day was incredible,” said Donner. “The energy was contagious as we cheered in each athlete. I can’t wait to see what they do in the future.”

 

Prescott’s upcoming plans include more racing for herself and her kids.

 

“They thought that my training and racing was pretty cool,” said Prescott, whose passion for the sport is now palpable. “There is a kids’ tri in Vero in the fall and since we homeschool them, training for that race will be their PE curriculum.”

 

Prescott, who already has a tri bike on her birthday wish list has some simple and trademarked advice for anyone else who wants to start.

“Just do it!”

 

Check out the complete race results and tons of Pineapple photos and videos at FB https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=37th%20pineappleman%20triathlon and additional photos on the amazing Keith Snodgrass’s Smugmug page at https://keithsnodgrass.smugmug.com/Swimming/PineappleMan-Triatholon-6423-/

 

Complete race info and registration is available for next year’s June 2 race at http://pineapplemantriathlon.com

 

Register early as this race has closed out quickly in past years and the new race directors are soliciting feedback to make 2024 even better! Why wait?



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