THE WOMEN OF IRONMAN. These are the women who gave birth to Ironman. These women were naturals because of their foresight, resourcefulness, inventiveness, creativity and instinctive ability to make do, undo and do over. They knew how to set another place at the table or toss another bean into the pot, as my Texas grandmother would say.

 
 

Valerie Silk 

  Valerie Silk with Earl Yamaguchi

Valerie Silk with Earl Yamaguchi

Matriarch and founder of the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon Championship and Ironman worldwide

The first time I heard the name Valerie Silk was in an early issue of Triathlete magazine in which she was quoted as saying that Ironman was the child she never had. This may explain why her events were so lovingly organized. There was a time when, in Valerie's honour, a well-run triathlon was referred to as "Silky". Valerie was a lady in every instance, even going so far as to insist her female office staff wear heels and hose during race week. 

 

Kay Rhead

  Kay Rhead watches race preparations, Kona. 

Kay Rhead watches race preparations, Kona. 

Original Race Director, Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon Championship

I met Kay Rhead in 1985 when she visited the Canadian International Ultra Triathlon in Penticton. I came to know her as a dear friend later that year when I attended my first Hawaiian Ironman. As race director of a candidate Ironman event, I was privileged to shadow Kay for three days and nights. The woman terrified me. All good race directors have that effect on people on race weekend. Most race directors exhale only once a year: after the final swimmer hits the beach. That's when you start worrying about next year's race again. Sadly, Kay died of breast cancer in 1988.

 

Lynn Van Dove

  Lynn Van Dove directs aboriginal dancers at Ironman Canada

Lynn Van Dove directs aboriginal dancers at Ironman Canada

First president, Penticton Triathlon Society; Race Director and later Race Chairman, Ironman Canada

I organized triathlons in Penticton and the south Okanagan beginning with the Peach Festival Triathlon in July 1983 and including the Canadian Ironperson Triathlon (1983), the Canadian International Ultra Triathlon (1984 and 1985), and Ironman Canada (1986 to 1991). In 1987 I was a Canadian delegate to the Triathlon Federation International Congress in Amsterdam.

I grew up in Dallas, Texas and emigrated to Canada in 1972. I studied radio, TV and film production at Southern Methodist University, University of Texas and Stanford University. I always approached my races from a production perspective. 

 

Linda Mills

  Linda Mills

Linda Mills

Founding Race Secretary, Canadian Ironperson Triathlon (1983) and Canadian International Ultra Triathlon (1984)

Linda was my neighbour and dear friend. She was also the first race secretary and worked on all four of the triathlons that took place in Penticton before 1985. When I met her she had two children under four and juggled her race duties with naptimes and peanut butter sandwiches. Linda lost her first child to SIDS. While organizing the Peach Festival Triathlon together in 1983, Linda and I were naive enough to think we might make a profit. We decided to donate it to a SIDS charity. (There was no Penticton Triathlon Society at that time so we could do what we liked.) Unfortunately the race never did make any money.

 

Deb Davidson

  Deb Davidson with Lynn Van Dove

Deb Davidson with Lynn Van Dove

Race secretary, Ironman Canada (1984-1987) and race director, Ironman Canada (1988-1991)

Be it bears on the bike course or 50,000 missing chocolate chip cookies, Deb Davidson could handle it. She actually took the "lost and found" items home after every race, washed and dried everything (except things that needed dry cleaning, which she paid for herself), then delighted in returning a feared-lost T-shirt, bike jersey or even sock to its owner--so long as it had been properly labelled (which they always were, thanks to the efforts of the meticulous ladies in race registration). Deb was my most trusted confidante and my greatest help through good times and bad. 

 

Elizabeth Laval

  Elizabeth Laval with Lynn Van Dove in Hawaii, c. 1988

Elizabeth Laval with Lynn Van Dove in Hawaii, c. 1988

Race Director, Ironman Japan 

This amazing American lady organized an Ironman in Japanese, in which she was perfectly fluent. Besides organizing the race for several years, Elizabeth Laval was the intermediary between the Hawaiian Ironman and its Japanese licensee, Dentsu Corporation.