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Out There: Recalculating Your Route

Deviating from the plan doesn’t equal defeat, writes columnist Susan Lacke.

“In 800 meters, turn left.”

I slowed the car to a crawl, looking to the left for the third time. Just like the previous drive-bys in the last five minutes, there was no place to turn off the main road.

“In 300 meters, turn left,” the voice in the GPS unit prompted once again. “Turn left.”

“I can’t!” I whined.

“Turn left.” (Did I detect a smidgen of attitude?)


“Turn left.” (She was definitely giving me attitude.)

Last week, my work took me to Busselton, Australia. Wanting to shake off 36 hours of plane travel, I asked an Aussie colleague to recommend a good running trail in the area. Excited by the promise of sweet singletrack and wild kangaroo sightings, I punched the trailhead address into my GPS and drove my rental car 30 minutes into the Western Australia forest.

Except I couldn’t actually find the trail. My GPS unit was convinced a road existed where there was none. Every time I approached the so-called turnoff for the trail parking lot, all I saw was thick forest. At first, I thought perhaps I drove too fast to miss the turn; the second time I looped around, I looked both ways in case “left” meant “right” in Australia (to my jet-lagged brain, this seemed logical). The third time, it was clear: I wasn’t going to find the trail.

I pulled the car over to the side of the road and parked, slumping over the steering wheel with defeat.

“Turn left,” the GPS lady said once more.

“Piss off.” I smacked the unit down from its suction cup on my windshield. The screen flickered briefly before springing back to life:


I was tired. I was stressed. I was alone. I was lost. And I really, really wanted to cry. But when a wave of emotion finally exited my body, I was surprised to find I was laughing. Not a chuckle or a giggle, but a loud, slap-happy belly laugh.

“When possible, make a U-turn,” commanded the GPS unit, causing me to roar even louder.

2015 has been one long year of “turn left” moments. Back in January, I carried a lot of assumptions going into the new year—by December, I’ve yet to see a single one come to fruition. I lost a job I loved very much. I expected to return to pursuing a Boston qualifier this year after undergoing ankle reconstruction surgery, but have yet to don a bib number. I assumed it’d be easy to make friends and training partners after moving to a new city, and that’s been a struggle. My best friend and mentor passed away after a long fight with cancer, and I learned I wasn’t as prepared for the loss as I thought I was.

I dealt with these setbacks the only way I knew how—by pretending they didn’t exist. I soldiered on with a smile on my face and the delusion that everything was fine—just fine. Instead of recalculating, I forged ahead, hell-bent on getting to my destination. If I could just get to where I wanted to be, I really would be just fine—or so I thought.

It wasn’t until I got lost—literally—that it finally hit me: This mindset is dumb. Really, really dumb. Comically dumb. In more ways than one, I was wasting time looking for roads that didn’t exist.

How often do we do this to ourselves? We plot a roadmap of expectations—what we’ll do, when we’ll do it, how we’ll get there—and refuse to deviate from the course. But how often does anything go exactly to plan, really?

Deviating doesn’t mean defeat. Running is about recalculating. Hell, life is about recalculating. Sometimes, it’s good to stop, look around, and acknowledge where you are—even if it’s not where you want to be. Recalculate. Be open to alternate paths. Enjoy the ride. You’ll get there eventually.

I never found that trail, by the way. Instead, I drove back to my hotel, resigned to skipping my run that day.

On the way to my room, I noticed a gap in the bushes outlining the property. After poking my head through the clearing, I found a short trail that led to a beachfront path. I checked my watch: if I started running right then, I’d finish with a front-row seat to the sun setting over the Indian Ocean.

“Recalculating….” I muttered to myself with a smile.


About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.