• Patti Sponsler

Winner, Winner, Pineapple Dinner!

Updated: Aug 8


The clock read 56-minutes and 55 seconds when Ed Donner scored his fifth Pineappleman Triathlon victory on June 5 in Melbourne Beach.


Always gracious, the Indian Harbour Beach principal of Donner Wealth Management stayed at the Rykman Park finish line to congratulate the runners’ up.


At a race where the top guys are usually within seconds of one another, Donner had an unusually long wait – more than five minutes – to welcome runner-up and New Wave Racing teammate, Michael Harris, 39, who came through in 1:02:20. Because Overall awards did not go three deep, Harris took the top 35-39 age group spot.


The wai-ai-ting is the hardest part. Athletes attempt to control nerves and expectations as they await the swim start of the 2022 Pineappleman Triathlon. PAMELA STIMPSON PHOTOGRAPHY

Other than "trying to keep up with a 10-year-old kid until he ran out of steam" during the swim, the racecourse seemed empty to Donner.


“It was quiet out there,” he said. “I wish I had had people to work with.”


Finishing the quarter-mile swim in 6:26, the multi-time Ironman finisher stormed through transition in 23 seconds, mounted his bike and hammered south.


“I knew I had a gap but I wasn’t sure how much of one,” he said. “As I was coming back from the turnaround, I was able to get a feel for the time by seeing where others were on their way out.”


Donner blazed the 12-mile flat fest in 30:42, averaging 23.45 miles-per-hour, the fastest split of the day.


Thirty-three seconds later, he was out on the 5k course with a huge lead.


“I still looked back a few times, though,” he said. “You never know who will show up. In 2020 (Pineappleman), Daniel Moore ran 15:30 on this course.” (Donner also won in 2020 and Moore ran his way into 3rd overall.)


Donner’s 6:04 pace gave him an 18:51 run split and another overall win award to add to his expanding collection.


Donner shares the 2022 Rotary Pineappleman Triathlon winners' podium with son, Chris. This was Donner's fifth Pineappleman victory. PAMELA STIMPSON PHOTOGRAPHY.

Racing hard and fast since 2005 and now balancing family life with training, Donner still has the fire it takes to stay at or near the top, even at 45-years-old.


“The high intensity, high heartrate training and racing offsets the stress of my business,” he said. "I know myself and this is what I need so I put it on the schedule.”


“Having a spouse on board makes it work,” he said, referring to his wife Kaitlin Donner, a former USA professional triathlete, owner of New Wave Physical Therapy and a strength, triathlon and running coach. “We do four workouts a day between the two of us. We blend them into our day and take turns. It helps that my office is next door to Kaitlin’s clinic and that we have a little gym in our home.”


“Even if we didn’t race anymore we would still train 12 to 15 hours a week. It is fun for us.”


Melbourne's Rebekah Ash placed fourth overall (by one second) and first female at the 36th annual Pineappleman Triathlon. PAMELA STIMPSON PHOTOGRAPHY

While Donner came to the sport on his own, women’s winner Rebekah Ash grew up with parents who regularly competed in triathlon, including Ironman.


“I did some kids’ races and one sprint and then stopped,” said the 24-year-old Pandadoc Program Manager. “I swam year-round though and got into running prior to beginning high school."


After running cross-country and track for and graduating with a degree in Psychology from North Carolina State University, Ash took a bit of time away from running and didn’t pick it up again until the tri bug hit.”


“My mom was training for a race and my dad was coaching me,” said Ash, who is the oldest in a family of nine children. “Then Covid hit and I didn’t start training again until the end of 2020.”


Ash signed on for the 2021 Ironman North Carolina 70.3 (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run) in Wilmington and then surprised herself with a 4:56:07 victory in the 18-24 age group by more than 31 minutes and earning a spot to the 70.3 World Championships in St. George, Utah this October.


After moving to Melbourne with her husband, Alex, last year, Ash began training with Kaitlin Donner.


“I didn’t decide to do Pineappleman until the week before,” said Ash. “Kaitlin said it would be fun and also that there was nothing better than racing to learn how to race.”


Ash, who races for Team Varlo, grabbed the women’s win in 1:04:05, one second behind third overall, Steven Mills.


“I felt awesome,” she said. “It was a fun atmosphere. Sometimes you pass guys on the bike or run and they aren’t happy but Pineappleman was different. Everyone was cheering each other on. I’ll be back.”


Ann Yarbrough's Pineappleman pre-race swag. At the time, the Melbourne Nurse Practitioner had no idea that she was win the female Novice division. Photo from Yarbrough's FB page.

Melbourne’s Ann Yarbrough will be back next year, as well.


The Pineappleman was the first triathlon for the 53-year-old Nurse Practioner who took the overall female win in the novice division.


“I was out running in Dec. 2020 and came across the Pineappleman transition area,” she said of the race that was held in Dec. because Covid was rampant in June that year. “I knew right then I was going to do it.”


While Yarbrough had been running since middle school, she usually ran alone and didn’t begin racing until aout five years ago when she discovered Moms Run this Town and then the Space Coast Sole Sisters, a women-only run group that she co-administers.


“I joined in on an event and thought ‘I’ve found my people,” she said.


With the support of great gal pals and her husband, Yarbrough learned how to cycle with clip-in peddles and began showing up at the Melbourne Mahi Masters swim group.


“We all started practicing together,” she said. “I am so grateful to have seasoned triathletes as friends because there is so much to learn.”


Melbourne's Anne Yarbrough, in orange cap, stands ready with some of the women who helped her train for the 2022 Pineappleman Triathlon, her first multi-sport race. Photo from Yarbrough's FB page.

After wishing her friends good luck as they began in earlier waves, Yarbrough entered the Indian River Lagoon to start her own race.


“The swim was a comedy show,” she said. “My only goal was to not drink too much water. I passed two men who were literally sick.”


As with most first-timers, getting out of the water safely is a relief.


“I was like ‘yes, that’s over’,” she said. “Biking and running were so much easier than the swim and I passed a lot of people on the bike who had started in the waves ahead of me.”


Yarbrough hung out at the awards for a while to cheer and then went home. It wasn’t until later that her phone blew up with texts telling her she had won the female novice category.


“My husband had been babysitting Jam, Deb and Tom Stokes grandson,” she said. “They brought my pineapple award when they came to pick him up.”


“I am already looking forward to doing this race next year and compare it to this.”


It wasn't until after she returned home that Yarbrough learned she had won the female Novice division. Tom and Deb Stokes brought her award when they came to pick up their grandson, Jam. Tom Stokes placed 1st in the 70-74 division and wife, Deb, placed 2nd in the 65-69 category. Photo from Yarbrough's FB page.

Complete Pineappleman race results, including the tri, novice, du, aquabike and 5K categories are here.


Pineappleman history and some tri racing tips are here.