Some people might describe James Lehmann as an average guy.
But after he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at age 37, his average life took a turn. His days now are consumed with testing his blood, he lives with a strict diet that helps keep his blood level in a normal range, and staying active is no longer a choice, but an everyday occurrence.
“I knew something was wrong,” Lehmann said. “I knew the fatigue and exhaustion wasn’t normal for a 37-year-old.”
He suddenly had to deal with controlling a disease that can cause blindness, nerve damage and can lead to heart disease.
But Lehmann isn't typical. After being diagnosed, his goal has been to build an annual charity ride to get more people to understand what he and other diabetics are faced with every day.
Lehmann now has a new diet and started testing his blood. He has tried several drugs to help him control his blood sugar levels, but they have not been effective.
So instead of focusing on himself, the Steamboat Springs Transit worker started a 160-mile bike ride from Steamboat Springs to Fort Collins to raise awareness. It also gives him a reason to stay on the bike and to train for the annual event.
The course is no ride in the park. It takes cyclists over Rabbit Ears Pass to Walden. Then it heads over Cameron Pass taking riders through to Poudre Canyon before dropping them into Fort Collins.
Last year, Lehmann and John Freckleton took on the entire ride finishing just short of Fort Collins after running out of daylight. A third rider, Gordan Worden, didn’t ride over Cameron Pass, but he helped the group get over Rabbit Ears Pass and worked to break the wind between the bottom of the pass and Walden. The group faced strong headwinds over Cameron and into Fort Collins.
But this ride was about more than miles and it was about more than physical challenges. It was to get people thinking about how they live and the impacts of diabetes.
“He wants to start the conversation,” Freckleton said. “He doesn’t want this to become just another ride. He doesn’t want it to be one of those rides that fade into the background. He wants this event to stand out and to get his message out.”
Freckleton, a doctor of osteopathic medicine in Steamboat Springs, has been helping Lehmann with his diabetes and coaching him.
“Some people might describe James as an average guy, but there is nothing average about him,” Freckleton said. “The idea for this ride was all his. It’s an amazing challenge for any rider. It’s challenging, but it’s doable and I think that’s what makes it special.”
Last year was the first time Lehmann hosted the ride and the turnout wasn’t as strong as Lehmann had hoped, but that hasn’t dampened his desire to keep the event going.
This year he is trying to build more interest in the race, and he's looking to draw a few more riders. The event is free, but Lehmann is hoping for donations to keep the ride going and possibly help other diabetics in Routt County.
Freckleton, who is a regular at Town Challenge races, said this is a challenging one-day ride for any rider. But he also thinks that most riders would enjoy the challenge and enjoy the journey.
This year’s ride will take place at 7 a.m. Oct. 4. Lehmann said the starting point has not been determined yet.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966