Lilah Aas rides in her seventh Habitat 500

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 12, 2003

Overseas, Lance Armstrong is looking for his fifth straight victory in the 2,130 mile, 22-day Tour de France bicycle race.

For Albert Lea’s Lilah Aas, it’s not the Tour de France, but it is still a trek.

This week Aas is looking to bike her 3,500th mile in her seventh Habitat for Humanity 500 bike-a-thon.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;I don’t think I’d say it’s fun,&uot; she said. &uot;But I really do love it.&uot;

Aas wasn’t always a cyclist.

&uot;I hadn’t biked regularly since I was in elementary school,&uot; she said. She started when she was over 50 years old, so it had been a while.

&uot;I would not recommend (biking the 500 for the first time) to someone past 50,&uot; she said, laughing. &uot;It was terrible the first day I got in. They want you to sign in each day when you finish, but I couldn’t even hold a pencil in my hand I was so exhausted.&uot;

Aas has become more accustomed to the jaunt with experience. She knows what it takes to train for it. She knows how to get her bike ready for it. She’s a veteran.

Aas said she rides for Habitat to raise money, but doesn’t participate in bicycling events that aren’t for charity.

&uot;I want to ride of a cause,&uot; she said. &uot;Not because.&uot;

Habitat for Humanity is a charity that builds homes for those who might not otherwise be able to afford a house. The organization uses

volunteers to do the building of the house, but they also require a

significant amount of work time be put in by the future home owner.

Habitat has built over 95,000 homes worldwide.

&uot;I really love Habitat for Humanity as an organization,&uot; she said.

Each rider has to raise $750 in order to participate. Aas said that less than four percent is used to pay for ride costs, the rest goes to the charity.

Over the past six years she has raised over $21,000 in donations. This year already she has over $5,000 in donations from people and businesses in the community. Each rider chooses where their funds go, hers will go to Freeborn/Mower Habitat for Humanity.

Aas’ trips have taken her throughout the Midwest and she said have united her with many intriguing people.

&uot;You meet so many great people out there,&uot; she said.

This year’s 500 mile trip will start and end in Duluth, touring through North Central Minnesota.

Each year around 125 riders ride the 500 mile journey together.

&uot;There’s a 70-year-old nun who’s been there every year,&uot; she said. &uot;She’s a terrific biker who taught me a lot, especially in my first year.&uot;

One of the most inspirational characters she’s met is a blind man who has biked on the back of a tandem bike for the 500 in the last three years.

&uot;It’s a humbling thing when you’re complaining about a day as a sighted person, and he just pushes on,&uot; she said.

For Aas, the road has also helped her come to terms and reflect.

Aas’ life has changed greatly in the past six years. During the past four years her nephew died in a mountain climbing accident and her husband died from a terminal disease.

&uot;When my husband died a lot of people asked, ‘How can you go during such a tough time?&uot; she said. &uot;But when you are out on the road you think about things, it’s really a reflective time.&uot;

Aas said she can still raise money for the trek throughout the summer.

Pledges can be sent to her at 1129 Lakeview Boulevard, Albert Lea, Minn. 56007.