Janesville's Carr exceeds Ironman goal
JANESVILLE What propelled 35-year-old Baker-Tilly CPA Zach Carr of Janesville to a stellar 19th-place overall finish among 2,700 entrants in the Sept. 9 Ironman Wisconsin in Madison?
"More of everything," said Carr, who was one of only three amateurs to finish in the top 20. "More training, more volume, more running, more old-school hard work."
The more-is-better approach led Carr to finish the 2.4-mile swim in 1 hour and 26 seconds, the 112-mile bike in 5:05.29 and the 26.2-mile marathon run in 3:19.37 for a 9:33.29 total, bettering his first Ironman Wisconsin time in 2010 by nearly 90 minutes.
Ben Hoffman, a professional Ironman competitor from Boulder, Colo., finished in 8:32.51 for the overall victory.
"I just worked my tail off," Carr said. "I got a coach to hold me accountable, and that was motivation."
Carr ran the Madison Marathon in 2011, and he qualified for the Boston Marathon, which he finished in 3:32 last April.
"My Boston time was not very good," said Carr, who entered sprint and Olympic distance triathlons for the last three years. "There were some extreme conditions with the temperature in the 90s."
Three years ago, the Madison Memorial and UW-Whitewater graduate with no athletic background decided he needed a lifestyle change. The 6-foot Carr went from a 225-pound couch potato to a svelte 160 pounds.
"I did a lot of traveling for work, and I gained weight," Carr said. "I was a smoker for 10-plus years … I just got sick of the lifestyle."
Carr also received inspiration from his wife, Joy, a type 1 diabetic who is an avid bicyclist and marathon runner.
"I started bike riding with my wife," Carr said. "I got hooked, but I didn't think I was losing weight fast enough biking, so I started running, and the next thing was triathlons."
Carr said his second Ironman went without a hitch.
"Everything just went perfectly during the day," Carr said. "I can't believe it went so well."
Beginning with the swim in Lake Monona, Carr was on a roll.
"Swimming is the shortest distance," Carr said. "I'd been swimming (2 miles) consistently in one hour, and I came out right at one hour."
Carr said the 112-mile bike route through the rolling hills around Madison was the biggest hurdle.
"Anybody who has done (Ironman) knows Wisconsin is right up there for bike difficulty," Carr said. "I know the course really well and when to push it and when to take it easy. It's pretty easy to blow up your legs if you go out too hard."
Carr relied on a power meter to monitor how many watts of energy he was expending, and he kept it within limits.
"I had to stay consistent," Carr said "I had the number I needed to hit to stay consistent."
Still, Carr had to peddle through pain.
"I strained my hammy on the second part of the bike (route)," Carr said. "So I had to take it a little easy."
Carr completed the bike route in good shape for the marathon, despite the stiff leg.
"I got off the bike, and my legs were sore and tight," Carr said. "I began the run and focused on my form, and my legs loosened up."
During the bike, Carr noted he was riding among the women pros, and that was his first indication he was on pace to finish among the top competitors.
"Being an accountant," Carr said, "I started doing the math on my time."
Carr said his legs remained strong through the run.
Carr's overall finish exceeded his goal, which was to finish between 9:45 and 10 hours.
"It's the best feeling coming down to the finish," Carr said. "Knowing what you achieved."
Ken Veloskey is a sports writer for The Gazette.