Tuesday, May 24, 2011

RR Review: Andy Baxter's 'Racing Yesterday'

There is no denying that Andy Baxter is passionate about rowing. A professional trainer, with a lengthy background in athletics and an ever-increasing desire to excel, Baxter's narrative is very much that of the happy warrior. In Racing Yesterday, Baxter not only communicates his love for the sport and competitive spirit, but also his grasp of what is ultimately the most important thing in both training and life – it is the journey that defines the experience, not the destination.

While the decision to train seriously for the Olympics at age 41 (or 49, in Stephen Kiesling's case) is certainly outlandish, both Baxter and Kiesling enter into their adventure with thoughtfulness and determination. From the outset, Baxter communicates frequently with well-known exercise physiologist and USRowing affiliated Dr. Fritz Hagerman of Ohio University, who has been involved in rowing since the 1960s, and who has worked with collegiate and national team athletes across several different sports. The challenge that Baxter and Kiesling undertake in Racing Yesterday is one of particular interest for Hagerman, who worked with Kiesling when Steve was training for the 1980 Olympics. This dialogue with Hagerman is not only beneficial to the two rowers, but also to the reader, and well worth noticing as the narrative progresses and their training cycle builds toward the main event. While some aspects of their training do not seem logical (they attempt to prepare for two different kinds of racing – 1,000 meter masters events and the 2,000 meter Olympic distance), their dedication to what is unquestionably an intense training regimen is unwavering, despite a host of challenges and against all odds.

The other aspect of the book that is not often mentioned, but which should not go unnoticed, is Baxter's pride in and care for his family. The son of experienced climbers in Al and Gail Baxter, Andy comes from hardy stock, and is no slouch himself. In the course of the narrative, Andy shares a number of anecdotes about his upbringing, and the values that he learned from his parents, who, without a doubt, instilled in him the work ethic that it takes not only to dream big, but also to reach for those dreams with every ounce of strength available.

For more on Andy Baxter's journey to the 2008 Olympic Trials, and to pick up a copy for yourself, visit www.racingyesterday.com.

Bryan Kitch for RR

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