'Racing Yesterday'

Ashland rower Andy Baxter's book recounts his race against aging

Ashland fitness instructor Andy Baxter has self-published a new e-book, "Racing Yesterday," that's aimed directly at rowers, but you don't have to be a rower to find a lot of life lessons in it.

The chatty, personal, 145-page book guides you with a friendly hand through the lives of two large, muscular rowing nuts who love their sport and made a game of pushing aside age while shooting for the Olympics in their 40s.

The curious title refers to rowing and racing against the bodies the men had in college, when they were supposedly at their physical peak. Their journey showed them that with the experience, passion and enhanced vision gained over the years, their boat could go even straighter and faster than when it was powered by pure muscle.

Baxter, 43, traces his rowing life back to college, then to his acquaintance with Stephen Kiesling, author of "The Shell Game," in Ashland. Baxter decided to move his family here and eventually teamed with Kiesling to train for the 2008 Olympics.

"The book is a record of my training with him and realizing we were going to be able to do it," says Baxter, a two-time Master World Champion and U.S. and Canadian Master National Champion.

Their campaign eventually transcended the goal of honing skill, strength and speed; it became a push to roll back the illusory boundaries of aging, as well as the prejudices against it.

"The message of the book became about how there are a lot of 'isms' out there that need to be smashed — and 'ageism' is a big one. Not just battling aging, but going against the others — Parkinson's, strokes, injuries. It was inspiring to everyone," says Baxter.

Did they make it to the Olympics? No, they didn't. They got as far as the C-finals. But that was enough. Young rowers, he wrote, were inspired and said they wanted to come back, like Kiesling and Baxter, to see whether they could qualify in 20 years.

The book presents a sweet, smart, humorous and hopeful, can-do tone.

"We created a story that people rallied around and ... found out its appeal was universal," says Baxter, owner of Baxter Fitness Solutions in Ashland and Medford. "We raced and lost to the very best athletes our country had to offer. We showed up, didn't get laughed at too much and possibly put the notion into someone else's head, 'Hey, those guys did it. I bet we can do it too!' "

The book can be purchased by linking to Amazon from http://racingyesterday.com.


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