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Lucky # Seven: Pineappleman Style!

Updated: 6 days ago

More than 500 triathletes await their turn to hit their wave in the Indian River Lagoon in Melbourne Beach, FL during the sold out 38th annual Pineappleman Triathlon on June 2, 2024. Photo: Kelly Hedgespeth and courtesy of Keith Snodgrass

You just never know who is going to show up at a race. And that uncertainty hung heavy in the air prior to this year's 38th annual Pineappleman Triathlon on June 2 at Ryckman Park in Melbourne Beach.

Would the six-time-victor, Indian Harbour Beaches Ed Donner, be able to tie the all time record seven wins laid down through the years by Jupiter's (city, not planet) John Reback?

While Donner had sailed through his last couple of post-Covid, smaller field victories, forces for this year’s sprint race seemed to be shaping up to shut down the principal of Donner Wealth Management and father of two boys.

First, last year’s runner up to Donner, Longmont, Colorado’s Jetson ‘Jet’ Swayze, 39, vowed to come back this year as he had “unfinished business with Mr. Ed.”

Although seven-time champ, Reback, had committed to Escape from Alcatraz last year, both Pineappleman and Alcatraz were on his race radar this year.

And, with Pineappleman returning to its past glory days, registration sold out with more than 500 athletes prior to race day. A total of nine elite competitors inked the starters’ list, many unknown to and much younger than Donner.

“I never know who I’m racing against,” he said prior to the event. “I start seeing how the race plays out on the bike and then adjust accordingly.”

While Donner got out fast into .25-mile Indian River Lagoon swim, the choppy froth hid a band of local creatures who slapped and stung the first human invader.

“I swam through a bunch of jellyfish,” he said. “My entire left side and the top of my head were burning. I considered stopping but then Jet was tapping on my feet and I reminded myself that it was a race. The guys and I laughed about it later. They said I cleared out the jellies for them.”

Ouch! Even the elites can sometimes take the dreaded tumble. Luckily St. Johns Matthew Gupton was able to recover quickly and took 3rd place in the elites with his finish of 1:04:43. Photo: Keith Snodgrass.

Donner exited the water first in 7:04 and came out of T1 with St. Johns’ Matthew Gupton trying to go with him.

“I got out first and heard a loud crash,” said Donner, who managed to not entangle himself with Gupton.

Riding south into a zesty little headwind along the twelve-mile (mostly) out-and-back bike route, Donner gained a commanding lead.

“After the turn, I could see that I had about 1:40 on Jet, who was in second,” he said. “I hammered back because I am aware from past races that there could be a guy like Daniel Moore who can pound out a 5:20/mile 5K.”

With no one challenging him on the run's 3.1-mile final leg, Donner ran a comfortable 6:10/mile pace, knocking out a 5K finish of 19:08 and his seventh Pineappleman victory in 58:31, tying Reback's seven win score.

In addition to the top Pineapple spot, Donner also took home fruit for the fastest swim (7:04) and bike (31:15) splits in the field. Longwood's Luis Pou, last year's duathlete winner, took the top age group male spot. in 1:02:16 and the fastest overall run split of 19:23.

Indian Harbour’s Beaches Ed Donner takes his SEVENTH Pineappleman Triathlon victory, tying it up with John Reback’s seven wins. Next year gents? Photo: Keith Snodgrass.

“This wasn’t a race where someone was pushing me out of my comfort zone or I had to strategize,” Donner said. "I felt like I was in my regular training routine. I’d like to come back next year and break the tie.”

Much like last year, Swayze followed Donner to the finish line in a bit over four minutes, taking second elite in 1:02:36.

Congrats to the top three elite award winners at the 38th annual Pineappleman Triathlon at Ryckman Park in Melbourne Beach. From left to right: Jackson ‘Jet’ Swayze, 39, Longmont, CO, 1:02:36; Ed Donner, 48, Indian Harbour Beach, 58:31; Matthew Gupton, 23, St. Johns, FL, 1:04:43. This was Donner’s SEVENTH overall victory! Photo: Keith Snodgrass.

Prior to the race, Swayze had said he would like to give Ed a ride for the money but had torn his meniscus skiing with his brother in February. His focus this year is not on triathlon but on healing well for the Pinhoti 100-mile trail race in Heflin, AL to try to qualify for Western States.

“This year it is more about family,” said Swayze, who had multiple family members also racing, including last year’s women’s winner, Mary Swayze, Jett’s wife, who was part of a relay this year.

Reback, prior to the race, was bummed to have an injured hamstring. He said at that point there was even a 50% chance he would not be jumping from the ferry into the frigid San Francisco Bay during this year's Alcatraz start.

And, always gracious, Reback wished Donner well. “I hope Ed can beat the other eight elite males and everyone else.”

One of the most incredibly admirable things about these two athletes is their championship longevity in a sport that is not always kind to the more, ahem, seasoned bodies. Donner is 48 while Reback has made 54 trips around the sun. They both continue to stack up consistent overall victories.

“I’ve always admired Reback,” said Donner. “He’s been one of the few athletes continuously winning as he aged toward 50 and beyond while successfully balancing careers and family.”

“Both of us are very experienced,” said Donner who has finished 20+ full IM events and is training for Kona again this year. “I’m about 20 years in and he has got to be 30-plus years. I can get away with a lot more intensity because of my years of base and consistency. It doesn’t mean as much as it used to these days, but I still have the same fire on race day as 20 years ago.”


Sanford’s Kerry Simmons took the overall female award in 1:10:30. The 57-year-old swim and tri coach proved that aging doesn’t relegate you to age group awards. Photo: Keith Snodgrass.

Overall women’s winner, Kerry Simmons, also proved that aging isn’t automatic relegation to age group awards. The 57-year-old retired New York Assistant District Attorney and now swim and triathlon coach from Sanford finished 23rd overall in 1:10:30.


“I was surprised to win,” she said. “I started in the last wave and it was quite a haul to get up front.” You never know where the younger women are and hope you can do enough.”


Like Donner, she has worked out consistently and trained hard over the years. The five-time age group national sprint and aquathlon champ has also had to make some additional changes in her post-menopausal years.


“First, I switched to a vegetarian diet and began performing better by not eating meat,” she said. “It is also more difficult to maintain a healthy race weight, so I also do intermittent fasting and make sure to get enough sleep.”


Simmons approach is to also remain mindful and grateful.


“I never take anything for granted,” she said. I always go into a race like it is another day at the office and focus on the swim, bike, run, and transition process. Even if there is no award, it is always a great training day.”


Congratulations to all of the Pineappleman participants. Complete results are at Registration is now open for the June 1, 2025 race and hundreds of great pictures – thanks to Keith Snodgrass and Kelly Hedgespeth- are also available at



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