Thirty Pascua Yaqui tribal members helped promote a healthy lifestyle and diabetes awareness late last month.
They endured rain and cold temperatures in Tucson, Arizona, while participating in the El Tour de Tucson, America's largest perimeter cycling (or "cycling in pursuit of wellness") event for all ages and abilities.
“This was the first time we had successfully organized anything like this,” said Apryl Krause, Manager of the Pascua Yaqui Diabetes Prevention and Treatment Program. “We tried to do it previously, but it didn’t work out.”
El Tour de Tucson was presented by Casino Del Sol Resort, owned and operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. The cycling event is held annually and attracts over 9,000 cyclists from across the Nation and worldwide, according to perimeterbicycling.com.
Krause was contacted via Facebook by James Stout, who works with a non-profit organization called AYUDA (American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad) and is a professional cyclist with Type 1 Diabetes.
“I worked with a nonprofit and was well aware of the Type 2 Diabetes issue on the reservations and with the Native American people,” said Stout, who has trained in Tucson and participated in four El Tour de Tucson.
Krause said 25 percent of Pascua Yaqui tribal members have diabetes. “This community is suffering from diabetes, but they don’t have to suffer,” he said.
The bikers were a mix of diabetics and nondiabetics. The Pascua Yaqui Diabetes Prevention and Treatment Program provided the bikes and riding gear for each participant (which they were allowed to keep).
“When someone finishes something like this they have bonded with the bikes and deserve to keep them,” Krause said.
A majority of the participants completed the 38 mile stretch. There were two participants who did not complete the tour because they witnessed a cyclist get struck by a car. According to the Arizona Daily Star, John S. Henderson, 59, was struck from behind and was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Those two riders were a bit shaken up and it is unfortunate that they had to witness that,” Krause said.
Despite the unfortunate tragedy, there was positive energy among the participants.
For Lisa Grajeda (Pascua Yaqui) and her husband Serigio Grajeda this was the best experience they had ever had. Neither of them have diabetes, but it runs in both sides of their families.
“We did the 38-mile stretch and this was our first time doing anything like this,” said Lisa Grajeda, fitness supervisor for the Pascua Yaqui Diabetes Prevention and Treatment Program.
Prior to the race, they went through training and even bought a bike cocoon so their 3-year-old son could partake in the training.
“The last eight mile stretch was tough, it felt like someone had put chili in our muscles,” Grajeda said. “But we kept each other motivated and we tried to focus on the beautiful views.”
Grajeda originally decided to ride for her parents. Her mother beat cancer this year and her father survived a heart attack. But she also did it to spend quality time with her husband. “We have to show our son a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
Krause, Stout and others welcomed all the riders at the finish line and took photos.
“I normally don’t stick around after I finish a race, but I’m glad I did, so I could see everyone finish,” Stout said. “Riders were smiling, people were crying, hugging their families-very emotional and a lot of joy.”
Krause plans to do it again next year.
“Just because you are diabetic doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy and ride a bike,” Krause said. “You can take control of your life.”