Steamboat Springs resident wants to raise awareness of diabetes with 160-mile bike ride to Fort Collins

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Local to ride in Tour de Cure

Leonard Auter is hoping to make a statement at the Tour de Cure ride in Longmont on Aug. 17.

For the past 13 years, Auter has lived with Type 2 diabetes and will ride in honor of his mother who lived with diabetes for more than 30 years before dying from complications of the disease. But the Steamboat Springs resident insists that he’s doing the ride as more than just a memorial.

“I’m riding for myself, and all the other diabetics out there,” Auter said.

He plans to ride 24 kilometers, or about 14 miles, this Saturday in the Fort Collins area. This is the first time he ever has biked with a large group of people, but if all goes well, he hopes to attempt the 50-kilometer ride next year.

The Tour de Cure is a national fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association that takes place in 44 states to support the mission of the ADA. This is Auter’s first Tour de Cure.

— It’s a journey and a cause that James Lehmann could not have imagined a few short years ago.

On Oct. 3, the Steamboat Springs resident will jump on the back of his bike near the Routt County Courthouse in Steamboat Springs and embark on the longest ride of his life. His plan is to climb over Rabbit Ears Pass on his way to Walden and then over Cameron Pass on his way to Fort Collins. It’s 160 miles that he is hoping will bring some exposure to Type 2 diabetes. It’s a journey he hopes will cause people to look at their own lifestyle — a journey he hopes will inspire others to take steps to avoid the diagnosis he received two years ago.

Lehmann isn’t your typical Type 2 candidate. He never has been overweight and always has led an active lifestyle. He started cycling in high school and said that the sport has followed him the past 20 years. As a high school senior, Lehmann completed the MS 150 in Texas, and after high school, he continued to ride and race. He enjoyed cycling so much that he eventually went to work in the cycling industry.

But while Lehmann describes his life as active, he said he was no stranger to eating fast food — mainly because it was convenient. He is the first to admit that up until a couple of years ago he drank too much sugary soda pop.

“After eight or nine hours of sleep, I would want to lay back down and take a nap,” Lehmann said. “I was tired all the time and just didn’t have the energy to do anything.”

Two years ago, Lehmann went to the doctor to find some answers, and after a number of tests, Lehmann was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It’s been an educational experience, and Lehmann still is working to control his blood sugar. Finding that balance likely is a life-long battle for the local cyclist.

“Not me,” Lehmann said. “I was active and healthy. Diabetes is something that happens to overweight people. Not to me.”

Lehmann was right.

Dietician, nutritionist and diabetic educator Pam Wooster said most of the people at risk for Type 2 diabetes are overweight or are not active. Ethnicity, age and a person’s family history also play a role.

Wooster, who runs the diabetes education program at Yampa Valley Medical Center, said that diabetes strikes people of all ages, all weights and even those who are active. She admits that most Type 2 diabetics are overweight, but that’s not always the case.

“You need to be familiar with the symptoms, and if you notice any of them, you need to be checked out by a doctor,” Wooster said.

She added that Type 2 diabetes impacts about 18.8 million people. It’s estimated that another 7 million are living with the disease but are undiagnosed, and that another 79 million are classified as pre-diabetic. People who are pre-diabetic have elevated blood sugar levels and are starting to experience some of the symptoms normally associated with diabetes. Wooster said if these people change their diet and make lifestyle changes they could avoid, or put off, becoming a full-blown diabetic.

But if people with pre-diabetes or Type 2 don’t change their lifestyles, they can place more stress on the pancreas, and symptoms will continue or get worse, Wooster said. Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, frequent urination and fatigue.

Eventually the disease can lead to cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage and eye damage. There also is an increased risk of osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

The news that he had diabetes came as a shock to Lehmann who never considered himself a candidate. Lehmann now wants to encourage other people to take steps to avoid the disease and to recognize the symptoms early on when they can still make changes to fend off the disease's progression.

He is hoping to control his disease to the point where he no longer has to take medications to reduce blood sugar.

This is a journey that Lehmann does not want to take alone. He wants to bring attention to Type 2 diabetes with his ride and is hoping to encourage others to join him on Oct. 3. The journey will be the longest he’s ever attempted. Anyone interested in taking part in Lehmann's ride can learn more on his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TeamA1C.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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