The Runner Diaries — David Leshaw

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Inspired by Refinery29’s Money Diaries and The Cut’s Sex Diaries, welcome to The Runner Diaries, where we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look into a week of training with runners of varying ages, paces and GPS coordinates. 

This week, we have David Leshaw of Jerusalem, Israel — a father and startup founder juggling fatherhood, his faith, and his CEO status with half marathon training.

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The Run Down

Name: David Leshaw
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Age: 26
Training For: Trail half-marathon in Jerusalem Mountains (March 10th), Jerusalem Half-Marathon (March 17th).
Occupation: CEO at Finishers Club
Goal race? I’d love to do an Ultra or an Ironman before I turn 30, but I don’t have anything particular in mind, just yet.
Following a training plan? Nope.
Part of any running communities, clubs or training programs? Finishers Club, and a few local Strava groups.
How long you’ve been ‘a runner:’ Since 2012.
Goal weekly mileage: 30-40 miles.

Runners Statement:

In my ideal world, I’d be up at 4a.m., run 10 miles before breakfast, actually do yoga, and then get into the office by 7a.m. I’d also be 6”2. And I also wouldn’t subsist exclusively on coffee and CLIF bars or stay up late watching Chef’s Table. I think an eventual, realistic goal for myself is 50 miles a week, and so my hope is to achieve a work/family/exercise balance that allows me to increase my mileage without negatively impacting – and, perhaps, improving – my time at work, time with my family and friends, and other hobbies.

Friday, February 24th // Day One

6:30a.m. — Breakfast

Wake up. Coffee. Sweet nectar of the gods. Coffee is super-important to me, and I have a a strong dependence on affinity for Fairway’s Colombia Supremo roast. I buy whole beans, and grind them by hand in my Hario burr grinder (yep, I can tell the difference between burr ground beans, and non-burr ground beans), and then make my coffee in a Melitta pourover cone.

8a.m. — Bowl of cereal (Honey Bunches of Oats) with 1% milk, and fresh strawberries and a banana sliced in. OJ on the side. In case this sounds idyllic, please note that my two year-old son standing at my side, repeatedly asking for some of my cereal.

My philosophy around eating is this: I mostly try to aim for whole wheat carbohydrates (sandwiches, wraps, pasta, and so on), with a healthy amount of vegetables – usually things like roasted peppers, baked sweet potatoes, hummus – and dairy, particularly greek yogurt.

When it comes to fueling pre-run, I really incline toward carbohydrates, typically a bowl of cereal, oatmeal, or a CLIF bar. Something basic, and maybe a little sweet, but without being, like, a piece of cake. I aim to consume pre-run carbs since I find that they just give me a better energy boost, and because they won’t really trigger my acid reflux, which can make an otherwise fantastic run into super-unpleasant gasp-fest that ends with me tossing down TUMS, and swearing off coffee (never!). After I run, I’ll often have something more protein-heavy: hummus, greek yogurt, a bean burrito — things along those lines — so as to help rebuild muscle, and also provide a more balanced meal than just sugar and carbs.

12p.m.Snack

CLIF bar and a few pretzels to fuel my run. I typically alternate between Raspberry Pomegranate Chia and Peanut Butter +Chocolate-Chip CLIF bars. As explained earlier, I really aimed to eat basic carbs to provide some energy without being something that will trigger reflux. The CLIF bar and pretzels also satisfy my salty and sweet craving.

2p.m. — Run: Six-mile run at about an 8:30/mile pace

…which was basically what I was aiming for. My goal here was basically just to put in a decent number of miles at a sub-9 pace. My goal is for my race pace to be below 8 minutes/mile (my 2015 Miami Half PR was 7:32/mile), and so I’m pretty content with 8:30/mile practice times. I’ve also been focusing on breathing in and out through my nose and keeping my posture straight — both things I’ve gotten better at in the last few months. Being focused on my form and on my breathing sort of centers me, and gives my run a meditative quality.. The pretzels + CLIF bar combo was a good one. On a run yesterday I got bad acid reflux, so this is a nice shift. It’s warm outside, which is nice. Plus, who doesn’t love listening to Macklemore at full volume?!

7p.m. — Dinner

Chicken, salad, assorted vegetables. A glass of wine. I basically only eat meat on the weekends, so this is a bit of an atypical meal for me.  I also haven’t eaten red meat in five years, so chicken and fish – usually salmon – are the only real animal protein I consume, although I am trending toward vegetarian. My aversion to red meat started in college, right around the time I started running: in short, I did it partially for ethical reasons (hello, Food Inc!), partially to save money (hello, college tuition!), partially for health reasons (I was 30-40 lbs heavier then), and also because it was a little bit easier to keep kosher.

After dinner, I read for probably around 40 minutes – I’m re-reading Joyce’s Dubliners and got to bed around 10:30.

Daily Mileage: 6 miles

Saturday, February 25 // Day Two

6a.m. — Wake up. Skip breakfast. (I’m Sabbath-observant, so I can only run on Saturday evenings, after sundown). In general, if I skip a day of running, I get antsy and feel guilty, but Saturday is the one day I guiltlessly grant myself. If I do decide to run after sundown, it’s usually a more spontaneous call, just depending on how I feel at the moment. And if I do run, it’s usually a casual, 3-4 miles.

11a.m. — Lunch

Fish, roasted vegetables, some chicken. Wine with lunch. In general, I enjoy wine, craft beer, and an occasional Scotch on the weekends (typically a Glenlivet 12). I’m not a cocktail guy. I’ll usually have 2-3 glasses of wine over the weekend, and maybe one glass of wine (almost always a red, usually a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz) every 2-3 days during the week; it provides a really pleasant way to relax. I’ll have craft beer every now and then (I like IPAs, and Israel has a really great, and growing, craft beer scene), but it’ll often take me two days to finish a beer (refrigerated in between), as it sometimes just feels kinda rich for me. I’ll often have a bit of scotch on Sabbath morning, as part of the beginning of the formal Sabbath meal.

7p.m. Dinner

A mix of leftovers from earlier in the day.

10:30p.m. Bed

Not super-annoyed about not running, but not thrilled that I didn’t run, either.

Daily Mileage: 0 miles

Sunday, February 26 // Day Three

6:30a.m. — Wake up.

7:30a.m. — Breakfast

Bowl of cereal (Honey Bunches of Oats) with strawberries and banana. Some OJ.

11a.m. — Lunch

Homemade Greek yogurt with almonds, cinnamon, and maple syrup. I seriously love Greek yogurt. It really goes well with everything, it can be sweet or savory, and can be a great garnish, or just be eaten on its own.

2:30p.m. — Run: A bit over six miles at an approx. 8:30/mile pace

… which was basically in line with that I had planned. During these practice runs, I’m really just aiming to build a base of miles at a pace about 40 seconds to a minute/mile above my goal pace. Not hard, but not really relaxing either And there’s nothing like the Rolling Stones to keep me going.

6p.m.Dinner

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Dinner is pasta, with a homemade marinara sauce recipe that I found on Serious Eats. I love marinara sauce, and one of my objectives for this year is to cook more, so this was a fun experiment.

Daily Mileage: 6 miles

Monday, February 27 // Day Four

6:45a.m. — Wake up. Played with my son.

7:30a.m. — Strong cup of Fairway coffee. Oh coffee, don’t ever leave me!

9a.m. — Breakfast

One and a half whole wheat bagels with cream cheese.

At work. I run Finishers Club, which is an online home for runners: Think of it as a visual, online trophy case for your race finishes, where you can log finish times and the gear you run in. We have a fantastic weekly newsletter and a super-cool blog. It’s literally the best job in the entire world. As CEO, I have a lot of different responsibilities: overseeing product development, talking to customers, overseeing strategic partnerships, working on marketing, and so on, but my abiding goal is to build something insanely great for our users.

12:45p.m. — Snack

A small cup of cottage cheese with maple syrup.

2:15p.m. — Snack

CLIF Bar and another strong cup of coffee.

4:30p.m. — All of a sudden it’s the late-afternoon and I still haven’t gone running!

5:30p.m. — Snack

A few pretzels. Somehow, I’ve still managed to procrastinate my run. I should add it as a skill on LinkedIn.

7:00p.m. — Three quick miles at an 8:00/mile pace. I ran less because I procrastinated, but tried to make up for it by increasing my speed. Lake Street Dive is totally my jam.

7:45p.m. — Dinner

Homemade whole wheat pizza, some frozen French fries, and a few homemade sweet potato fries (just to prove to myself that I can make my fries better and healthier than whatever I buy frozen), along with whole bunch of mini cucumbers.

10:45p.m. In Bed

Daily Mileage: 3 miles

Tuesday, February 28 // Day Five

6:50a.m. — Wake up. Play with my son. He loves trucks. And drawing on the printer with crayons.

7:30a.m. — Cup of coffee.

8:40a.m. — Breakfast

Bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with strawberries and banana.

11:30a.m. — Snack

A few mini-yellow peppers. So delish! Seriously, why would anyone not love those little peppers? A cup of coffee, and some of a CLIF bar.

2:30p.m.Lunch

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Lunch is a cheese sandwich: multigrain bread with smoked cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, fresh basil leaves, and amba, which is a sort of pickled mango spread that goes well on sandwiches, wraps, and falafel.

3:45p.m. — Run: Five-mile run at a somewhat leisurely 9:30/mile pace.

Jerusalem is pretty hilly, so you need to work hard to really get into the 8:00/mile range, which is about what I’m aiming for at the 2017 Jerusalem Half. The landscape of Jerusalem varies (from crowded streets in the city center to small mountains with trees on the outer edges), but it’s virtually impossible to run more than a mile or two without encountering decent changes in elevation. The Jerusalem Marathon and Half-Marathon are notoriously hilly, and so I’m not anticipating PR’ing. When I lived in NYC, I ran the Greenway – the flat running path along the Hudson – fairly frequently, so living in a relatively hilly area is a bit of an adjustment.

4:40p.m. — Snack

Apple and peanut butter. Seltzer. I feel pretty good for having run already today, and for not having procrastinated more than usual.

6p.m. — Dinner

Whole wheat pasta with leftover homemade marinara sauce and fresh grated mozzarella cheese.

11:20p.m. — In bed.

Why do I stay up so late? Oh, that’s right. Netflix documentaries!

Daily Mileage: 5 miles

Wednesday, March 1 // Day Six

7a.m. — Woke up late. I really try to get up before 7a.m.!

7:30a.m. — Coffee.

8:40a.m. — Breakfast

Breakfast of cereal with banana and strawberry.

9a.m. — Another coffee.

11:45a.m. — Snack

A handful of Snyder’s of Hanover honey mustard pretzels and a banana. Snyder’s are my weakness. I only had them periodically a bit as a kid, and now that I’m an adult who goes to the supermarket, I buy them as much as I want my budget allows.

2:30p.m. — Snack

Apple, some slices of cheese, and a part of a CLIF bar. I don’t schedule my “snack time,” and I basically just eat whenever I’m hungry – which feels often. The one thing I try to do is avoid eating the 1-2 hours before bed, which just seems recommended by things I’ve read.

4p.m. — Snack

Banana.

8p.m. — Run: Quick three mile run (in two parts) at about 8:20/mile pace.

I’d procrastinated, so I was pretty tired and hungry, which made my run harder. I typically use Strava, since I prefer the app’s interface and auto-pause, but I import the Strava GPX files into MapMyRun, since I’ve been using it since 2013, and like having all my data in one place.

9p.m. — Dinner

Whole wheat wraps with quinoa and roasted vegetables, with hearts of palm, and baby spinach on the side, and homemade Sriracha mayo. I’m a huge fan of Sir Kensington’s Sriracha Mayo, but they don’t sell it in Israel, so I make my own. A little bit of Ben and Jerry’s Brownie Batter Core for dessert.

Daily mileage: 3 miles

Thursday, March 2nd // Day Seven

6:50a.m. — Wake up.

7:30a.m. — Coffee.

9:30a.m. — Breakfast

Breakfast of scrambled eggs on a whole wheat wrap. Why don’t I eat more like this? I really like scrambled eggs.

12p.m. — Snack

Snack of coffee cake (brought in by someone to the office) and a cup of coffee. It’s a fantastic combo. No wonder they call it coffee cake. I have more slices than I’m comfortable sharing (fine… it was 3!).

2:15p.m. — Run: 7-mile run at a 9:00/minutes mile

Didn’t push too hard, as I just needed to relax. I ran on the slower side since work was pretty intense, and I just needed to kind of zone out for a bit, without focusing on speed and pace too much. Running really does help me both think and check out, when I need to.

3:30p.m. — Lunch?

Leftover quinoa and roasted vegetables with Sriracha. Yes, I do go through Sriracha quickly. And yes, I did watch that documentary.

4p.m. — Snack

Apple.

6p.m. — Dinner

Two frozen veggie burgers (think Morningstar burgers) and spinach with a mustard agave spread I made myself. After eating those burgers, I realize that I should probably make my own. In the past, my wife has made awesome burgers using sweet potatoes, quinoa, and black beans, and so I want to try making some on my own —  they’re just way healthier and better-tasting than whatever you get frozen.

11:30p.m.In bed

Daily Mileage: 7 miles

Weekly Total Mileage: 30 miles

A Look Back – Thoughts On The Week:

I realize that I eat way more CLIF bars, coffee, and Sriracha than I thought I did, which is probably not ideal. I also eat more fruit that I thought I did, which is probably a good thing. I also tend to procrastinate running until the evening, which is something I need to work on, since I’m so totally not a night person. Although I did hit my target of about 135 miles total in February, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to doing yoga and strength training. On the other hand, I’ve gotten way better at watching cooking shows on Netflix.

But in all seriousness, my primary goal is to get back to my Sunday or Friday long runs of 10 to 12-miles. I think getting to that point will help me get closer to the 40 miles per week I target, and, from there, eventually help me move toward longer-than-marathon distances (strongly considering a 50K ultra in October). Overall, I was pleased that I was within my 30-40 mile weekly range, although I’m obviously not thrilled that I was on the lower end. But upward and onward!

Race results: In the end, my trail run was fantastic. It was really serene, the scenery was beautiful, and it very much felt like a substantively different style of running. There’s less of a focus on pace, and a lot of the run more closely resembles hiking and mountain climbing.

My Jerusalem Half-Marathon was also good. I ran it a bit faster than I had last year — 1:45 in lieu of my 1:55 in 2016, so my pace was just over 8:00/mile, which was about what I was aiming for. Strava tells me that my GAP (Grade Adjusted Pace) was closer to 7:30 or 7:40/mile, which is a nice boost.

About David Leshaw

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David Leshaw is a jogger, blogger, and, occasionally, a lager. Leshaw runs Finishers Club — an online home for runners.

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