Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Very Cherry Winter…

I am a runner. Stopping is like sucking the air from my lungs. It is my compass and the place I center. The place where I believe during that runner's high that all great things are possible. I can always do more and be more within the miles and I come back refreshed and grateful. I need to feel that limitless faith like a child.

So when a new verdict came in from an orthopedic surgeon of Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CRCS), I just kept resting my forehead on my hand and breathing deeply. It is exactly what I thought it was three months ago with my vast internet searching. It is rare, but all my symptoms fit. I am sure it annoys many doctors that so many of us runners self diagnose, but that's the world we live in. To them I say, "get use to it and start opening your mind." We love information. I was told in October by a physician's assistant and doctor, that it certainly was not the case and dismissed and told it was a sprain muscle from over use—not the case at all. Sprains heal or get better with rest. I had already been resting it. I had had this coming on since mid July and the pain was there within 20 minutes of exercise.


These are the symptoms I have had on the outside of my lower, left leg:

Tightness » burning like bacon grease » pain that increases on the outside and moves deeper in the calf =  finally needing to walk a little to release it and stop the pain and start up the cycle again when resuming the run

This has been a roller coaster that I want OFF from.

As defined by the Mayo Clinic, CRCS  is an exercise-induced muscle and nerve condition that causes pain, swelling and sometimes even disability in affected muscles of your legs or arms.

I know some people will think "why not do the surgery and get it over with?" But I want this next year to be a worthwhile running journey and 6-weeks off will hinder that. I think, why not try everything non-invasive first. Being cut should be my last resort. I asked around my BAMRR network (those speedy ladies I ran with at Ragnar DC) and found another runner who had the surgery. Her details made me more determined to put it off as long as possible or at least until the fall if I had to have it done. 

I also received a message from a sport medicine doctor who thought Graston Technique along with myofascial release and neuro unwinding would be helpful. Acupuncture was suggested as well. So with that support, I don't feel like I am off my rocker.

I am not a doctor and am not pretending to be one. But this is my time on this earth and I think people run too fast to surgery and end up with more issues. I may be spinning my wheels in the long run, but putting it off is worth it for me. Reaching out to others has helped me make more insightful decisions.

CRCS would mean surgery with 6 weeks recovery with no running and I was just about to start my marathon training schedule. I asked about alternatives suggesting some like Graston Technique and Acupuncture, and he told me nothing else was scientifically proven. 

The next step would be having the pressure test done on my leg after running on a treadmill in their office with the pain setting it. To perform the test, imagine a big, long, think needle and my leg as a tire getting each compartment tested with the needle inserted. OUCH! I have not done this to date since I have no intension of rushing to surgery. I needed time to research a little more and try at least something.


So what am I doing and what has happened in the last three weeks?

Many runners do all sorts of little tweaks to run fast, more efficient, and in my case trying to run pain and ache free. These are a few things I have focused on more in the last three weeks.

Back to training with no running the day before the long run—just a smaller workout allowed like T25.

 I had custom orthotics made for my shoes and always run in them (been wearing these for 2 months).

Switching shoes out when I feel an ache: I have switched to my Saucony Stability shoes on some runs outside because I can feel them pushing my pronating feet out further than the Hokas. Sometimes I feel like I need it. But the Sauconys feel too firm and even hurt on the treadmill. I still love the absorption of impact with the Hokas and ran 14 miles with them last weekend. 

Foam rolling just about every night (been rolling for 2 months).

Most importantly, I have been pounding the CherryFlex. 1 large tablespoon of the gel from the jar taken twice a day. I don't miss a dose. Although I have used CherryFlex for post exercise benefits, I thought that this would be a worth while effort and I could put it to my own test at a high dose. If it can make horses feel like running again, why not me?

Week one: After building up the CherryFlex for 8 days I noticed a big difference of some soreness and aches instead of the pain that had started in the first two miles and stopped me mid-run before. 

Week two: I was having some completely ache-free runs and others with just a slight ache.

Week three: I have just completed the second week of marathon training (week three with CherryFlex) and have not been backing off from the intensity these last three weeks. I have been pain-free ALL week. It's an astonishing turn of events and I am looking forward to this progression and training season. I still get a strange ache now and then, but nothing to make me come to a stop. That 8 minutes mile just may be within my reach afterall without the pain that has been blocking progress since October. I am doing speed work with the "Own It Plan." This marathon training is on!

Just to illustrate the stress of my training plan, this is what it looked like last week:

For years people have been benefiting by consuming tart cherries or CherryFlex for their high antioxidants to prevent gout flare ups, arthritis inflammation and pain, and reduce muscle soreness following exercise. Other claims on cherries include the promotion of cardiovascular health and providing treatment other than some medications, and even help treat insomnia (because of they contain melatonin). There are plenty of articles online to support these claims on cherries. Believe me, I have been searching! One article by the Huff Post suggested they even aid in the loss of belly fat. Dr. Oz has featured the benefits of tart cherries juice on his show. As far as me experiencing these extra effects, I am dreaming more and remembering my dreams.That is a little strange in its self. I didn't realize that I dreamed of races (and getting lost) and my family so much.

Enjoy my photo of CherryFlex in the snow
because we have a lot of both at our
home in Michigan.
What is CherryFlex? It's just tart cherries including the pulp and skin in a thick paste consistency. I put it on my oatmeal or eat it off the spoon. It's sweet and a little sour just like ripe tart cherries. And, my daughter begs for a taste every time I open it.

Here are the 3 ingredients: Tart Cherry paste, tart cherry concentrate, glycerin

As I stated before, I am not a doctor and this is my personal experience and thoughts. I am not getting paid to write about this journey. I am ecstatic with the results so far and optimistic about 2014. Who knows, maybe it will even help someone else.
If you are interested in trying this, you may order CherryFlex through, email  orders@cherryflex.com


  1. Please keep me updated on your progress with tart cherries...and anything else that works! Every once in awhile I still have calf pain, but it's nowhere near the level it was pre-surgery. Do your feet every go numb and tingly while you are running? That was the proverbial straw for me.

    1. I am sure my pain and symptoms will come right back if I stop taking the cherry gel. Hmmm maybe you should start looking at natural anti-inflammatories like tart cherries. Thank you so much for your insight. Knowing that it could be more of an ordeal and a longer duration of healing was and is useful. My feet don't and have not gone numb. That would be a hazard! At its worse, the burning pain was around 75% of my leg and it just got so bad I would stop running because I couldn't think if anything else. Plus, I was scared I was tearing something.


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