I didn’t even care I had 25 miles left. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to drink. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and die with shame and embarrassment. I worked so hard for so long working toward my goals. I am so strong physically but, yet I am still not good enough. I have worked so hard cleaning up all my mistakes, yet they still haunt my conscience. I have worked so hard to make myself mentally strong but I’m still so immature. I have been patiently persistent with every aspect of my life and knowing I failed myself devastated me beyond control……

Part One
Part Two

Lost and broken… leaving Outward Bound

I can’t even express the devastation and panic I had leaving the aid station. My heart was broken and yet for some reason I thought I could make up time if I just hurried. I know I was scared. I know I lost my composure. I know I rushed out of the aid station hoping that saving 2 minutes would somehow save my time. In the end not regaining my composure cost me much more than a couple minutes.



I left the aid station with minimal warm clothes, I didn’t change my headlamp batteries, I took a couple bites of food but nothing sounded or tasted good, I didn’t reapply Vaseline to my extremely chaffed lower body, instead of resting for a couple minutes and regaining my composure… I left the aid station with fear in my heart, a clogged mind, and tears in my eyes… Kayde and I hit the road on the way to Powerline and my legs wouldn’t move. They were like concrete beating on asphalt as I knew we had a 2 mile stretch of uphill road to get to the hill. I knew if I could just start running all would feel better but with every step the mental anguish of moving overcame me a little more. I looked at my watch more in the first 10 minutes out than I had the rest of the day. I was trying to do math to find any conceivable way I could make it the next 25 miles in the amount of time I had to make the 25-hour cutoff. I couldn’t find a way. With every step forward came another ounce of disappointment and shame. I let negativity overtake my mind and body. The fog in my mind became darker and darker. With every step my mind relooked at a memory from last year…


Last year was a dark time for me… Mentally I was going through changes I can’t explain… While I looked in the mirror and saw one person, everyone around me looked at me and saw a completely different person. I had changed so much physically of the previous couple years but when I saw myself in the mirror I was the same 400-pound man I had always been. When I looked toward my future, I saw everything I wanted to be (and knew I could be) but everyone around me saw the same loser I had always been… I got caught up with the wrong group of people, my conscience ate at me more every single day, I was depressed, I was lonely, I was abusing alcohol, I was abusing running, I was unhappy with my job, I was miserable… My life was falling apart in every way. I lost myself, my family, my friends…

I remember a year ago hoping I would wake up dead because it was easier than facing reality. I wanted to hit the restart button so bad, but I couldn’t find the energy to get out of bed, let alone start making the right decisions for myself. I remember last year at the race I was 3 bottles of Fireball in when I quit. I found my breaking point last year at 1:20 am at mile 69… The pain of the race put me over the edge. I couldn’t out run the pain anymore. I couldn’t out drink the sadness any more. My mind was tired. My body was exhausted. My spirit had left my body months ago… I was in a deep dark place in my life with no visible light. I was lost with no direction home… When I quit the race last year, I quit a running event… but in reality, I wish I could have just quit my life, it would have been easier…. But for some reason the morning I woke up and wanted to put an end to my life I found an ounce of Hope… and for some reason I only needed to see a glimpse of the light to know my life was worth fighting for…

I thank my lucky stars every single day I choose Hope.

As the drizzle became a downpour Kayde and I made the long trek up Powerline… I had lost every ounce of care for the race. I lost any motivation to move faster than a slow stumble. I knew I had missed my time goal… and I also knew I was so far ahead of the cutoffs I could walk every single step in and make the 30-hour cutoff. While I was lost and lonely in my own head, I let the darkness overtake me. I started stumbling a little slower. I started to feel anger inside me. I was overwhelmed with sadness and despair. I lost every bit of self-confidence I had gained in myself over the last year. In the moment I thought it was all over. I wondered what the point of it was. I lost my drive and my vision to keep going. I don’t think I ever yelled but I know my self-pity was expressed several times. I feel so sorry Kayde had to be stuck with me for the several hours of trekking across a mountain while I wallowed in my own pity and moved slower than a snail.

Kayde worked her butt off to get me to move and to smile. She started making me talk about positives in my life. She asked me questions that made me stop thinking about the darkness and to start focusing on the light. With every step forward my body was not moving any faster, but I was starting to think about more and more that I had to be happy about, to celebrate and to look forward to. As mad as I thought I was at her at the time (I was apparently enjoying the negativity in my own head…) she really helped me through the tough spots. She helped me understand a lot about the race and life. We exchanged stories about family and friends. We talked a lot about relationships and moving down our own path of life. With every word she spoke and every question she asked I started feeling a little better mentally. I don’t know what I would have done without Kayde… she became the glimpse of light I needed while I was in such a dark place.

She kept me moving and that is what I needed. I knew this section was taking forever. I knew how slow I was going. She had to have been bored… I was getting bored. We couldn’t see anything past the light of our headlamps. With every minute that passed my headlamp dimmed more and more. I watched as people passed me with little effort. One person then another then another went passed me… Every single time someone went by me I got a little more frustrated with myself. I couldn’t help just tell myself to run but my legs wouldn’t move. They felt heavier with every step.

Knowing we were reaching the top was a good feeling. Kayde had been helping me improve my attitude a little more with every step and we knew we were about to arrive at “Space Camp”. The glow sticks started lining the trail and we could hear the horn coming from the darkness. I wanted something to eat or drink so bad but nothing sounded good. As we moved through the woods we started to hear the people laughing and having a good time. When we arrived, I drank a couple glasses of something (Ginger Ale, I think…) and ate some pretzels, the first food I had in I can’t remember how long… We hoped this would be a turning point for me. It’s all downhill into Mayqueen from here and all I had to do was let gravity pull me down the mountain and I had to make sure my feet stayed ahead of me…

My mind and body refused. I had lost all my willpower to keep pushing. I walked. I walked the entire section down watching more people pass me down the mountain. I knew I was so far behind schedule now and all I wanted to do was get to the last aid station and I couldn’t motivate myself to run 10 steps. The self-loathing started to pick up again. I began to drift back into the darkness of my mind. I started to feel sorry for myself. I wondered if I was really good enough to be out here on this course with this group of elite athletes. I just wanted to see my crew. I was cold. It was dark. I was fatigued from running. I was tired from being up for 24 hours. All I could think of was taking a warm shower and crawling into bed…

When we hit the trail into Mayqueen I couldn’t see that great and I knew how technical this section was. I knew I had to pay attention and pick up my feet and just keep moving. I tried to run a couple times, and not only would my legs not work but my mind wasn’t fast enough to read the trail. I felt like I was going so slow and I didn’t even think I was going to make it without falling. I know I was testing Kayde’s patience, but she stayed behind me with her headlamp the whole way. She pushed me to keep going. She encouraged me when everyone one passed me in good spirits. This section is the longest section of the course… I knew it was only a little over a mile, but it seems like it takes days to pass through. You can hear the people at the aid station from miles away and you know that is where you get to go… but I couldn’t get my body to move any faster. I wanted to find my motivation, but it was nowhere to be found. I finally heard the water and knew the final bridge was coming up…


I told Kayde to run in and let everyone know I was coming and I wanted Mary to walk me in… Mary came running out and when I saw her I fell into her arms. I was lost. I was broken. I wanted to be done and stay right here forever… I knew I wasn’t going to quit and I was going to go on no matter what… But I had used everything I had to get right here.

My crew had everything ready for me. They warmed me up with soup and coffee. They had dry and warm clothes ready for me. I changed my shoes and socks again. They made me regain my composure and to get as warm as I could. I have run this next section so many times. I knew there was 13 miles between me and the finish line. I didn’t want to go but I knew I couldn’t stop here. I just had to keep moving.


Brad picked me back up for this next section and with a feeling of death I hobbled out of the aid station and across the timing mat knowing I only had to keep going for a few more hours… Away we went down the road toward the lake. I knew I was going to see the sunrise from around the lake… This brought an instant disappointment to me as it was a reminder of what I didn’t accomplish. As we hit the trail Brad told me we needed to pick up speed. He began pushing me to move faster. I would whine every time he did. I was lost in my own self pity with every step. I had given up on myself long ago and for whatever reason I couldn’t get my head back to a positive place… I was surrounded by the most positive people I could have asked for, but for some reason I was rejecting them…

Turquoise Lake took forever to get around. Brad would push me, and I would slow down. I would move over and watch people fly by me as if they were on mile 10. With every person that passed me, my head would cloud just a bit more. All I wanted was to be done. I wanted to just get to the end… I lost my ability to enjoy the race and the experience. I was thinking about all I had missed out on instead of all I had accomplished the previous day and the previous year. I was no longer smiling. My energy was zapped. The Gary of old was coming back a little more with every step. I have spent so much time and energy trying to get rid of this guy and he always finds a way to crawl his way back. No matter what I do I can’t get rid of the man in the mirror he continues to haunt me.

With every step I could feel the frustration building… I wanted to go faster. I wanted to be done. The more I thought about the finish, the harder it was to move. I look back and realize it was when I started focusing too far in the future that I started falling apart… For 70 miles I focused on taking the next step forward. For 20 hours all I cared about was working toward the next goal and moving forward as best I could. I was smiling and only exerting positive energy which in turn created more positive energy. With every step I took with a negative feeling, it took 10 times the amount of mental energy to move forward. I was resisting everything that was trying to help me move forward.


The lake section was long and I could finally feel it coming to an end… I knew Mary was waiting for me at the end of the lake to take me the last 5 miles. I was leaning on my poles with every step. I knew I needed to go faster. Brad knew I needed to go faster… With every step I tried to run I would slow down. Every single time Brad would get me going I would find an excuse to stop…. As we passed the boat dock, I knew we had about a mile to the end of the lake. With every step I tried to go faster but I knew I was going slower. My legs were beat up a little more with every step forward. My mind was weakening with every step forward. I knew I had to get out of my own head… but with every step I just let the darkness cloud my mind a little more. I saw the end. I hiked up the last hill with every ounce of energy I could find. I felt the sun shining on my face for the first time today. I felt a bit of relief. I knew I just needed to keep moving forward now.

When I dropped Brad off, I dropped my coat and my poles off with him in hopes that not having the “crutches” it would force me to run more. With disappointment in my heart and shame on my mind I knew I was about to finish the Leadville 100. All I had to do was keep moving forward and don’t stop. I had enough time to walk fast and we would make the cutoff… and I was prepared to be the last one in… I knew I was the only person who was disappointed with my performance… Everyone was so upbeat, positive, and happy for me and all I could do is think about how I gave up on myself. I had so many regrets from the last couple hours. I knew I hadn’t performed my best and the disappointment with myself grew with every step.


Mary was at the crossroads waiting for me with her Amazing smile. I had waited for so many hours for this moment. She knew I was devastated and I could feel her passing me positive energy from the second we saw each other. She told me she would allow me to go slow through the rocky downhill we started with but as soon as we hit the gravel road we would start running. I reluctantly agreed thinking she would forget by the time we got to the bottom… she didn’t… As soon as we hit the road she gave me a quick positive pep talk and away we went.

I felt like a snail. My legs didn’t want to stretch out. All I could do is lean forward and pick up my feet acting like I was running. We started with 30 steps running and 10 steps walking. She kept me on this pace for a good mile. Occasionally, I could go 50 or 60 steps without walking and it felt so amazingly terrible to run that far. The whole last 5 miles is a steady uphill climb back into Leadville and she was making me sprint it (not really but it is what it felt like at mile 95).

We got to the road across from Sugarloafin’ and people were starting to line the streets cheering us on. This gave me a small boost of energy and then I ran into a good friend of mine. He must have been able to see the pain in my eyes because he started walking next to us. He told me how proud he was of me. As we continued he started telling me a story of someone he met that had a Run Epic sticker on his notebook. According to the story I had inspired and motivated this guy, through social media, to lose over 60 pounds and start running… In that exact moment I couldn’t be angry with myself anymore. I couldn’t be sad anymore. I couldn’t even smile… I just felt this completeness inside me. For so long I have wondered if what I am doing meant anything to any one other than me. I have often wondered why the hell I was running 100 miles. I have wondered if I should just quit trying to build a business and go work at a fast food restaurant…


In that very moment the thought of a time goal escaped me. The thoughts of a shiny new belt buckle were gone. The thought of crossing the finish line didn’t matter. My pain disappeared. I realized why I was on this dirt road at this time suffering as I was… None of this has anything to do with me. I’m just being me, doing what I do, working my tail off to get better every day. I share my story, my adventures, my wins & losses because that’s what I do. I don’t fit in to groups because my identity isn’t attached to food. I eat different. I train different… I look at weight loss in a different way. I see the path to change and self development in a different way…

Occasionally, I hear about someone that made a drastic positive life change because of me. Every so often I get a message from a silent observer or hear a story about how I helped someone make their life better. They changed something and now they are living a more fulfilled and healthy life because of something I have said or done.

I instantly remembered why I started all the craziness. I remember why a couple years ago I starred at a mountain and said do your worst… The mountain agreed, and it beat the living shit out of me. I went home broken, never to be repaired the same way I started… The road and the trails back to this mountain have been long. This mountain has shown me more pain than I dreamed could exist. It has shown me a side of me I didn’t believe was there (good and bad). The journey seems without end… but as I let the positive emotions take hold as Mary and I headed across the railroad tracks and down the Boulevard, I could feel something…

We started running a little more. She was telling me funny stories and making jokes as we went. She was making me think of more positives as we stumbled down the road 30 steps at a time. I remember her feeding me an energy waffle like I was a 3-year-old. Ha-ha, it still makes me laugh because she would break off a small portion and give it to me, I would reluctantly take it, run 30 more steps, then ask for “just one more bite” … The last steep and rocky uphill came just around the left turn and we agreed to hike it as fast as we could. We got to the top and a volunteer was waiting for us and he said we were just a 5k away from the finish line.

I was excited. I knew this was going to hurt and we were going to run as much of it as possible, so I got ready as all you can see is a long stretch of dirt road leading uphill over the next 2 miles. We were moving swiftly, but apparently it wasn’t fast enough for Mary. She said we need to get moving so she looked ahead and said there were about 5 male runners we could pass before we hit 6th St if we just put our mind to it… I agreed and we started running. I looked up and as we passed the first runner I felt like I could keep going. We did, a good solid 75 steps forward. This section became fun as the two of us just held hands and smiled as the steps went by. I forgot what mile I was at. I forgot I was in a race. I forgot how tired I was. I forgot how beat up my body was. I forgot about every single dark spot I had been in the last 30 hours. I don’t know how she did it… but she took every bit of sadness and negativity away. She was excited for me and she didn’t hide it. She kept telling me how great I was doing and how Amazing I was going to feel when we hit the asphalt. She told me how special the finish was going to feel.

When we were 2 miles out we called my boys and the crew to make sure they were there waiting. I started to get happy I was going to finish. I was sad it was about to be over. I felt special that everyone I wanted to be there waiting for me was going to be there. I had imagined this finish line for years now and the vision has changed so many times I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I have imagined every single emotion as I mentally crossed the finish line and for a lot of reasons today was going to be different. We continued to pick up our pace as we passed more and more people heading in. We saw the last turn into Leadville and we stopped for the “mile 99 selfie”…


As we took the last couple steps up the gravel road to the turn I couldn’t help but start to feel overwhelmed with emotions… As we turned the road was packed with people cheering us on. Within 30 seconds of hitting the road I started to run into friends that started congratulating me. As we started up the hill I heard people cheering. I heard my bib number called out. I heard my name called out. I had people coming out to give me hugs and high 5’s. When we got to the top of the hill I could see everything… I could see people lined in the streets for a mile. I could hear people cheering for us for over a mile.


I could see the finish line.

A moment I have waited years for and I could feel it though every ounce of my body.

I thought to myself, I made it.

I looked at Mary and as she smiled so big she told me to go get that buckle.

We ran. We ran every single step from the top of the hill in. I heard and saw people I knew in every direction. People I’ve run with. People I’ve worked with. People I know from social media. Everyone was cheering at the top of their lungs. I heard my name over and over again. People actually started chanting my name as I got close to the finish line…


About 5 blocks out my boys were there waiting for me. I picked them up and my entire crew to take the last steps with me. As I held my boys in each hand I watched that finish line get closer…


I heard them call my name as I ran the last block.

I felt everything and nothing all at once.


I wanted to cry.

I wanted to scream.

I wanted to cheer.

I wanted to throw my arms up in the air.

But I crossed the finish line with nothing more than a smirk on my face.

In a place where I got lost…

I felt found.


After all this time I wandered around the mountains looking for something, not knowing what I was looking for.

After losing everything I knew before.

I spent so much time wishing this finish line would put my life back together…

I realized something…

I realized the cold hard truth.

This finish line was not meant to put the broken pieces back together.

This finish line was not meant to be an end.

This finish line was not meant to be a beginning.

Crossing the Leadville 100 finish line is another step in my life’s journey…


It is not the end nor the beginning.

But through the journey I have been lost. I have been broken. I have picked up pieces on the rocky trails and discovered new truths on the highest mountain tops.

When I was lost and broken looking for a place to call home… Leadville gave me everything I was looking for… I just had to climb a mountain and find it on my own.


“I may drift and I may wonder never finding a place I can call home but maybe what I’ll learn in all the chaos is that home isn’t a place or a thing… but a feeling we get when we are surrounded by people who love us for who we are in spite of our disorganization, flaws, and failures. They love us for everything we don’t love about ourselves and through others we learn to love ourselves and that is what home feels like. I climbed a mountain to find Hope… and that’s where I found you.”



I did not complete my goal…

I left the course last year with the feeling of failure.

I left the course this year with a feeling that I came up short…

I will return with the next level of determination, hard work, maturity, athleticism, knowledge, and growth. I will return to the starting line faster and smarter next time and I no matter how long it takes, I will achieve my goal.

I have no excuses. I ran my heart out for 70 miles. I was good enough to hit my goal for 70% of the race. I was not good enough to hit my goal for the entire 100 miles. Granted, I knew it was a long shot. I know finishing in under 25 hours is reserved for the few and I knew I was trying to convince myself I was good enough… but in the end the mountain showed me everything I needed to know. No matter how hard I worked, no matter how much preparation I had put in, the results speak for themselves… I am not good enough. I know people think I’m crazy, but I have had a goal in my mind for over 2 years now. I will let my burning obsession carry me through the mountains until I hit my goal. I learned I am not good enough. It devasted me to the point I hit an instant onset depression and self-loathing… but I have taken not only my lessons about running, but the lessons I learned about life. I will carry those lessons though my recovery and next training cycle. I will pass these lessons on to my kids, my friends, and my clients. Most importantly I will take these lessons to heart and live them every day for the rest of my life. I may be defeated today, but I will not stay defeated tomorrow. I will continue to grow as a runner, an athlete, and a person. I will accept my fate and know that I may not be good enough today, but I will get better tomorrow. There is nothing I can’t accomplish if I set a goal in my mind, take positive action forward every day, learn from my mistakes, persist forward through the darkness, and keep a positive outlook on the future no matter what stands in my way.

“We must see ourselves as we want to be seen before others begin to see us as we are.”


Published by Gary Stotler

Gary Stotler is a father, running, fitness, weight loss and personal development addict. Formally 400 pounds, Gary has naturally lost 200 pounds, created a coaching & speaking business and has become a 100 mile ultra-runner. Holding a degree in Psychology & Sociology, certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a personal trainer, mindset & behavioral modification coaching, a certification in DISC personality assessment coaching and he is a certified speaker, coach & mentor with the John Maxwell Team. Gary firmly believes, if we take One Step at a Time, nothing is impossible. He is determined to let his actions show people what is possible and hopes to help you shake up your thoughts, change your actions and create your future.

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  1. Words escape me…thank you for taking the time to so transparently lay this out. You continue to push through what many don’t when it gets hard–pulling through the darkness, and that’s what inspires me about you. We all have our mountains to climb, and then climb again as we realize so much more deeper that lies beneath. I look forward to seeing the next part of the journey as you aim for the next goal.


  2. Crying my eyes out! Loved it all! You are so amazing and I am so, so impressed by your achievement. 100 miles is incredible and at Leadville. Yes, you did not meet your time goal, but 100 miles of life lessons to take you forward. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.


  3. Gary, I am speechless. You have so powerfully brought me along through each painful step after coming out of Outward Bound straight through to the finish line. I am 60, and age is catching up with me. I would love to run Leadville but I don’t know if I am physically able to. Yet I felt like I ran that last 30 miles reading this post. Thank you for your transparency and for sharing so beautifully from the heart.


  4. Wow! Thank you for sharing this. I will undoubtedly never run 100 miles but it was phenomenal to experience it through your narrative.


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