Columbia Retirees To Hit The Road -- On Their Bicycles

Couple Plans To Spend Six Weeks Biking Across U.s. For Charity

April 21, 1991|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff writer

The calendar says Bob and Barb Lamborn are elderly. The stereotyperssay they should be whiling away their retirement years in pursuit ofrest and relaxation.

But ever since they first climbed aboard bicycles to try a 27-mile ride during a Hawaii vacation, the Lamborns have been making a liar out of the calendar and a mockery of society's image of the aged.

Five years, 15,000 miles and two life-threatening setbacks later,the Lamborns -- 72-year-old Bob and 61-year-old Barbara -- are riding stronger than ever.

They've logged hundreds of miles in places as near as Maryland's Eastern Shore and as distant as Death Valley, the Santa Fe Trail, Scotland and France.

In three weeks the Columbiacouple will take their toughest test yet. They will leave Los Angeles May 11 to begin a six-week cross-country ride for charity, a trek that will force them to average 80 miles a day to arrive in Boston by June 27.

The ride, organized by Pedal for Power Across America, will benefit three charities -- the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the League of American Wheelmen. The latter is a non-profit, Baltimore-based group that promotes the education andsafety of bicyclists. Pedal for Power is a non-profit arm of the American Wheelmen.

Each rider must raise at least $5,000 in pledges to participate. The Lamborns, the only registered couple for the ride,were required

to raise $10,000. They recently cleared the $17,000mark.

The ride will force the Lamborns to extend themselves like they never have.

They must cover more than 100 miles in five of the 42 days, two of which occur during the trip's first week through the nation's Southwest deserts.

The ride will then take them around the southern ranges of the Rocky Mountains, northeast along the SanteFe Trail, through the nation's heartland and to the shores of Lake Erie, then east along the Erie/Mohawk corridor and through the Berkshire Mountains into Boston.

The five scheduled off days surely will be welcome, even for a couple as fit as the Lamborns, who ride daily,lift weights three times a week and look as svelte and toned as teen-agers.

They cover an average of about 3,000 miles a year. They intend to rack up 3,341 miles in just six weeks.

"The distance and the terrain frankly don't scare me at all. What scares me is the back-to-back long days," says Bob, the oldest of the 65 riders scheduled to participate.

"We've ridden a lot of 60- to 70-mile days," he adds. "We've done six centuries (100-mile days) since we've been riding,and we're going to ride five of them in the course of 42 days, sandwiched around a bunch of 90-mile and 80-mile days. That's a lot."

The Lamborns have been preparing for a ride like this since the first day they decided to give physical fitness a chance in Hawaii.

While in the working world, neither had an interest in athletics.

Bob spent a 45-year career in education. He was the headmaster at the McDonogh School in Baltimore for 21 years, then served for 10 years on the faculty at the University of California at Los Angeles before retiring in 1983.

Barbara, a published writer of children's poetry, retired around the same time after running an image consulting businessfor nearly a decade.

The Lamborns recall feeling hooked on bikingafter their first seven-day, 175-mile ride on Maui. And as they've worked into the best shape of their lives -- Bob has dropped 40 poundsfrom his one-time 6-foot-1, 206-pound frame, while Barb is a lean 5-9, 133 -- they've battled their share of setbacks.

For starters, Barbara is a lifetime asthmatic, a condition that doesn't exactly jibewith an aerobic activity like biking.

"All my life I shied away from things like this (biking). I never did anything athletic," she says. "I take medication and use an inhaler. Nonetheless, it does give me problems. Sometimes on the hills it feels as though you can't inhale or exhale as much as you need to. The medication pretty well controls it in the summer."

But they have faced much more serious adversity.

In 1988, Barbara suffered severe injuries in a fall while riding in Columbia, and 16 months ago Bob was diagnosed with prostate cancer during a routine physical. After two operations, he had the prostate gland removed last May.

In each case, it meant a lengthy layoff. Barb had to ignore her bike for about 15 months. Bob was inactive for about seven.

"All I remember is seeing a white line and hoping I could stay within it," recalls Barb, who lost control of her bike while trying to negotiate a sharp curve at about 35 miles an hour before flipping on the bike.

She suffered a punctured lung, a broken collar bone, broken shoulder blade, seven ribs that "cracked like eggshells," and lacerations to one ear that required plastic surgery.

"The doctor prepared my family for the fact that I might not make it," says Barb, who spent two weeks in the University of Maryland Hospital's Shock Trauma unit before undergoing more than a year of physical therapy. "My fitness helped pull me through."

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