Jim Leyce is a guy that just will not quit. He went through the December 2010 Kokoro and struggled midway only to find his inner strength and finish like a true warrior. SEALgrinderPT catches up with Jim to hear his story and how he perservered to make it through. Jim is in the photo as second in line moving right.
SGPT: Tell us a little about yourself and your background coming into
JL: My interests are wide and varied. From skydiving to theater and everything in between. I went to college with the intention of one day becoming a physician. It didn’t pan out though. I knew it was going to require a lot more effort than I was willing to put into it. So I set off on a different path that took me through medical research, computer science, life insurance, etc….Of interest to the reader though is my health history. At the age of 19 I was diagnosed with a debilitating connective tissue disorder. It took me out…hard and fast! I went from playing soccer to hardly being able to dress myself in a matter of months. Since this diagnosis a little over 20 years ago my life has been a series of milestones…overcoming one obstacle after another…gaining more and more confidence in my body and mind. The thing that most people tend to forget is that even though the body may eventually mend itself completely the mind is still reeling from the experience. There are definite mental and emotional scars that come with a significant physical illness and they tend to heal a lot less quickly. That being said Kokoro was an experience I needed in order regain some of the confidence I once had.
SGPT: did you have an athletic background growing up?
JL: I did! I was extremely active as a kid. My first organized sport was soccer. I began playing at the age of 6, I believe. I tried about every sport out there at one time or another. Some stuck and some didn’t. They ranged anywhere from bowling to pole vaulting to racquet sports, wrestling and everything in between. I was the epitome of a “jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none”.
SGPT: What was the hardest part of Kokoro for you?
JL: Everything! I knew it was going to be demanding in every sense of the word. I think the thing that I struggled with the most (and keep in mind that this was MY struggle. Yours may be different) was that I was so embroiled in my own survival that I couldn’t contribute to the team as much as I would have liked to. I love being part of a team. I love the camaraderie and a common goal to strive for. The inability to contribute ate at me the entire 52 hours (yep….52 hours for Kokoro 14). The bottom line was that my pride had been broken and that became MY struggle. I had to learn to accept my teammates encouragement…I had to accept the fact that I was going to have to allow my teammates to carry me through to the end. This is what the camp is designed to do though. It was designed to expose your weaknesses. It is up to the individual to decide how to handle it. Do you quit or do you find that inner beast within yourself to keep going? Here is the cool part though. You don’t go it totally alone. Mark Divine will teach you how to recognize these feelings and doubts and then handle them through breathing and mantra among other things. His staff (including Brad Mcleod) is supportive. They have been there too. They are VERY familiar with the pain and misery.
SGPT: How did you prepare for Kokoro and how long?
JL: I did the December 2010 Kokoro. I have been doing CrossFit for a couple of years now. I don’t recall when I signed up for the camp exactly but I probably began to prepare about 1 year in advance. To be honest I wasn’t entirely certain how to prepare. I did however begin to buckle down on my diet and turned up the intensity on my WOD’s. In August 2010 I also began to incorporate some Endurance WOD‘s. I knew it was going to become more of a mental battle more than anything though and I don’t know that a person can really prepare themselves adequately for something like Kokoro. I think it’s more of a mindset than anything. Decide before you even go out to San Diego that you are not going to quit. It’s going to be a really, really long flight home if you decide to tap out before the 50 hours are up.
SGPT: What is one tip you would give a candidate for Kokoro?
JL: This is the real deal so don’t take it lightly. Throw on a ruck sack and run, run, and run some more. When you are done with that…RUN AGAIN! Believe me it will serve you well. CrossFit and/or SEALFit are excellent ways to prepare physically and mentally too.
SGPT: How does it feel to be done and what have you learned?
JL: I am of course thrilled to have finished! Not only did I confirm some things I knew about myself but I learned some new things too. I know that the “takeaways” are going to be different for everyone who walks away from this camp. The common denominator though is that we all struggled in one way or another and I believe that its the struggle that brings people together as a unit. What did I specifically learn through this experience? I learned that the human spirit is incredibly powerful and has immense, untapped potential. I was absolutely spent both physically and emotionally but I firmly believe that it was my spirit that helped me put one foot in front of the other. It was the spirit of survival that helped me to focus on the now. Not the future and not the past but NOW. Wow! How often do we get to experience something like that? People ask me why I did this camp. I tell them that I was able to both experience and witness the human spirit at it’s absolute best. I know now what I am capable of and how far I can push myself. I mentioned before that my illness left mental and emotional scars. I believe that getting through Kokoro helped me eliminate some of the scars. My body and mind are getting stronger everyday and as far as I am concerned the sky is the limit!