A Promise to Dad

Sandra, blogger at A Promise to Dad

This week’s interview is with Sandra from ‘A Promise to Dad‘. Sandra has been blogging about her life and training in Nebraska following the loss of her father in 2011. Sandra shares her adventures as a swimmer, cyclist and runner, including lots of lovely photos in the mix. I’ve been holding onto this fantastic interview for a while as I wanted to have enough time to do it justice, so apologies to Sandra. I hope everyone enjoys reading it 🙂

A Promise to Dad

  • Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Thank you for interviewing me – I am honoured!

I have lived in Illinois, Nebraska, Spain, and New Mexico, and am currently back in Nebraska again (for the last 18 years).  I am a professional historian and currently a university professor. People that meet me outside of academia have a hard time believing that.  I never had kids, so I never had to “grow up”.  I like that about me.

Growing up, I was never good at anything except softball, which I played from the 5th grade up until a couple years ago when I took up golf league instead (apparently no one wants a fat middle-aged woman—even if she hits .750 and has a slugging average over a thousand).  I always used to be fit and muscular—it’s hard not being that way.

I am married to an amazing man whose talents blow me away (botanist, musician, photographer, woodworker for starters).  His two daughters accepted me with open arms, and one of them just had a baby.  So I am technically a gramma now 🙂

In my spare time, I love camping, training for triathlons, kayaking, walking my dog, reading in the sunshine, writing, photography… basically being outside and/or being creative.

What would surprise folks? I have published 5 [history] books, the last two of which were award-winning books.

  • You started writing ‘A promise to dad’ in January 2012. Why did you start blogging? Are you still blogging for the same reasons?

I started blogging because I wanted to be accountable to the “universe” about my road back to health.  I was a caretaker for my Dad (with mom) as he sunk into Alzheimer’s. A couple of days before he died, I promised him that I would get healthy again and I couldn’t take it back.

I have had a lot of bumps along the road, some of them ridiculously frustrating, but the friends I have met along the way have been so encouraging!  I have learned so much about races, training, food, diet, clothing options, online programs, and so much more.  Mostly I continue blogging because I feel like it keeps me motivated to continue my training and because now I have lots of friends out in bloggyland that I would miss if I stopped.

When I have questions about training or injuries or whatever, I can just ask and lots of people respond with their suggestions and solutions.  Sound ones that are tried and true by folks that have used them.  Folks that I have grown to trust.

Finally?  Because I learn about cool new devices and tools and groups to join for community!

  • Which three blogs/bloggers have had the most influence on you and why? Are there any particular bloggers that you look to for inspiration?

Cult Fit
Cult Fit

CultFit (http://cultfit.wordpress.com/):  CultFit reminds me about staying grounded, true to myself, and honest about my intentions, goals, and accomplishments.  And to find happiness.


Transventure (http://transtri2.wordpress.com/):  Andrew over at Transventure enjoys life, posts photographs of his adventures that remind me of my joy of being in nature, and reminds me that life is too short to not do what you love.  Part of my post “What Can I Give Up” was inspired by his recent life changes.

Fit Recovery
Fit Recovery

FitRecovery (http://fitrecovery.wordpress.com/):  While he is on a different track in life than I am, I find his posts motivating and encouraging.  Plus, he understands what it means to reclaim his life—and his posts are filled with admonitions about getting it done.

  • How would someone describe your blogging style?

Haphazard! I wrote a different blog before I started this one—it was all about my journey with my Dad.  I wrote on that blog in order to keep my siblings posted about his progress into the disease, but I also wanted it to be an outlet for creative and very descriptive writing—a style I don’t get to do in my field.  That blog has grown into my next book project for which I received a $4500 grant to write.  It’ll be done by the end of this year.

I originally hoped that this blog would be an outlet for more creative writing, but I don’t seem to have as much time to devote to writing as I did then. So my posts feel really haphazard. I should work on that!

  • Which of your blog posts has generated the most discussion and why?

I have 69 comments on my “About Page” (http://promisetodad.wordpress.com/about/), but I have 3 posts that are tied for having the most posts (from most recent to oldest) of 24:

Half Marathon (http://promisetodad.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/half-marathon/):  I think it’s because I couldn’t do the half that I trained for due to injuries, but I was SUPER excited that I got to hand out race medals.  My first volunteer stint at a race.  Time to pay it back!

Momma (http://promisetodad.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/momma/):  I took my mom in for knee surgery and it elicited a variety of comments—some of them were back and forths, so I am not sure if that qualifies!

Hannah (http://promisetodad.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/hannah/): This day we lost our sweet Golden Retriever quite suddenly. I posted my favourite photograph of her and, well, the loss of a family member evokes a lot of comments from people. Understandably—we love our four-leggeds!

Hannah © Sandra, A Promise to Dada
Hannah © Sandra, A Promise to Dada
  • What tips would you give to anyone thinking about starting to blog?

Have a distinct theme and stick to it.  I should do that more 🙂

  • You’ve won a number of awards for your blog, including:

    – The Sunshine Award
    – The versatile blogger award
    – The Liebster Award
    – Sisterhood of the World bloggers award
    – Shine On award
    – Kreativ blogger award
    – Beautiful blogger award
    Can you tell us a little bit about these awards?

Wow, it’s overwhelming to see them all listed here!  Apparently, my words are motivational to other people. You see, I’m not a little person—I started this blog when I weighed 222 pounds, the heaviest I have ever been in my life.  I’m happy to say that I don’t weigh this much any more.

I remember seeing the weight go up, starting in graduate school, and thinking “Well, it cannot go much higher than that.”  And instead of doing something about it, they kept going up.  I lost some weight a couple of times. Watching my Dad dying did something to me.

I think that my passion for life and working out has touched people on some very deep level, and in many different ways. I’m not any better than any other blogger out there – there are many FAR better than me – but it’s so amazing to be appreciated like this! It means so much to me.

  • Who do you think the main audience is for your blog? Are you writing with any specific person in mind?

I started writing this blog assuming no one would ever read it. Ever. Except for me. I have no idea where my followers found me, but I’m honoured that they have. I realized that most of them were fellow triathletes or folks just fighting their own weight battles themselves. That’s who I’m writing for. I’m no expert, I’m just a girl who wants to live life fuller, longer, healthier!

  • How do you decide what is ‘blogworthy’?

My workouts are definitely blogworthy—I want people to know that I struggle, but I keep going.  Sometimes I have other things to share that aren’t workouts, like my post on March 9 (http://promisetodad.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/what-can-i-give-up/). Even though it isn’t really about a workout, it is about reprioritizing—which in the end is about me being healthy, happy, and living longer. I want my blog to be motivational, but real.

Sandra on the bike trainer and her partner on the treadmill
Sandra on the bike trainer and her partner on the treadmill ©Sandra, A promise to Dad
  • What do you find most challenging about blogging about sports and health?

Finding the time to do it during the busy parts of my year!

Oh, and it’s really hard to blog about sports and health when I cannot do any sports because I’m injured! That just makes me feel sad. (http://promisetodad.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/not-my-plan-again/)

  • What do you do when you aren’t blogging?

Walk my bordippit collerier (flat-coated border collie whippet cross), train, teach, grade papers/exams, go to too many meetings, kayak (my hubby built this kayak for me a few years ago:  http://springrun.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/maiden-voyage-2/), work on my next books, and many other things!

Dulce © Sandra, A Promise to Dad
Dulce © Sandra, A Promise to Dad
  • You’ve got a page on your blog that lists most of the races and events that you’ve taken part in since 2008. What challenges, races and events have you got lined up for 2014?

I signed up for Hickory Grove Aquabike in Colo, Iowa, in May (because I cannot run yet); and the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon in Smithville, Missouri –just outside Kansas City (https://www.sportkc.org/win-for-kc/tryathlon).  It’s still open!  You all should join me!

Notice I said I cannot run yet.  I’m planning on being healthy for this July Triathlon, and I will walk the run if I have to—but I AM DOING IT!   I also plan to sign up for the Olathe Women’s Triathlon in Olathe, KS (September); and am REALLY contemplating the RedMan Aquabike in Oklahoma later this summer.

  • What skill do you hope to master over the next year?

Hills on my bike. I hate hills. And to get back to running.

  • Are there any questions you would like to ask the next featured blogger?

What got you interested in Triathlon (or whichever sport you love)?  What keeps you going?

  • You’re a member of the Ogio Advisory Board, a Sweat Pink Ambassador and a member of the Milestones Sports Jewelry team. Can you tell us a little bit about these roles?

Oh!  I’d love to!

MILESTONES:  When I did my first triathlon in 2008, it was pouring so hard that they cancelled the bike portion—but waiting at the end was a ring I had purchased to commemorate the event.  I have never taken it off.  I decided to buy a bead (Pandora style) for every event I have completed, and I get them from Milestones, because I like the owner.  She answered my questions and was very personable.  While it seems crazy, we sort of became friends via the internet.  She started the Milestones Sports Jewelry Team—and if you sign up, you get an awesome tech shirt and a discount on merchandise.  But the best part is you get training programs from her team of experts which include former Olympians!  BY the way, I have filled up an entire bracelet with race beads (several triathlons and 5ks, and a 10k from last August!)

milestones logo
Milestones logo

OGIO:  Early last year when I was sidelined with a severe case of asthma, I started shopping online for a good triathlon bag.  I landed at OGIO and while poking around, saw that I could apply to be an OGIO Advisory Board Member.  So I applied.  And they chose me!  http://promisetodad.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/ogio-advisory-board-member/.  They sent me two amazing bags, then gave me 40% discounts on orders!  Needless to say, I’m OGIO-fied!  🙂

SWEAT PINK:  Thanks to YOU, I applied and was accepted as a Sweat Pink Ambassador.  I think part of my application that they appreciated was that I helped a student start the Triathlon Club at my college and got a math professor and a staff person to do a women’s triathlon with me—their first!  Since then, they have continued to compete in Triathlons around the region!  I’m so proud of both of them.  The best part?  I get to hand out hot pink shoelaces to people who inspire me or have been inspired by me!  I LOVE that!

Sweat Pink laces
Sweat Pink laces
  • You recently blogged about the GoPro Hero 3 that your husband gave you and you often refer to your Garmin stats. What is your favourite gadget and why?

OMG.  I LOVE MY GARMIN 910xt!!!  I am a stat freak because it is SO motivating to me.  About 10 years ago, I had a 205 then I upgraded to a 310xt (giving the 205 to mom, which she still uses – although she just told me she has never uploaded the data to her computer.  Whaaaaaat?????).  I use the Garmin swimming inside and outside, on my bike inside and outside (with the cadence sensor), walking and running inside and outside (with a footpod), and kayaking, sailing, hiking, whatever.  I LOVE that thing!

I’m sure I’ll say I love the GoPro Hero 3 too, but it’s been TOO miserable where I live to use it outside.  I will take it to the pool this week to check my swim mechanics, though.  Here’s a GoPro video in doubletime – my bike ride December 30, 2013:  http://promisetodad.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/a-december-ride/.

  • You blogged about volunteering at the Cocoa Women’s Half Marathon in Alamo. What’s the furthest from home you’ve travelled for a sporting event?

This one!  I was supposed to run it, but I developed plantar fasciitis while training for it last fall.  I’ve been sidelined ever since.  Since I had already purchased our plane tickets, we went anyway!  We hit the one good weekend in the entire month of January in Texas.  LUCKY!  Before that?  It’s been five hours to North Platte, Nebraska, for the James O’Rourke Triathlon.  It’s an awesome one in April every year.  They have the Platte River Series that encourages Nebraskans to get fit and stay healthy!  Motivational speakers the night before the race tell such awesome stories, well, you just have no choice but to sign up again the following year!  I’ve done it two times.  Here’s the heartwarming story of my first one three years ago:  http://promisetodad.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/race-report-orourke-memorial-triathlon/

  • You’ve blogged about having to train indoors and watching various programmes (including The Cosby Show and Star Trek). Do you listen to music when training? What music motivates you?

Funny that you ask. I haven’t listened to music while training for a long time—probably since last spring. If I’m on the treadmill or trainer, I usually watch a movie or TV show (also Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Daily Show, and Colbert Report, among others)—they keep my mind away from the pain and tedium. When I first started training, I would listen to U2’s faster stuff, or The Gypsy Kings. Sometimes now I listen to Bluegrass (Folk Alley, find the app on your i-Device)—mostly because I don’t listen to music on the radio and therefore I have no idea what new music is out there. I even listen to NPR when I am at the gym on the bike, treadmill, or elliptical (this tells you I’m at the gym when the news is on really early in the morning!)

·       What’s your favourite food/recipe?

Pizza.  Anything with Chocolate.  Popcorn.  New Mexican food.  Recently I’ve discovered Zesty Quinoa Salad (we add avocados).  MmmmmM!  It’s waiting for us in the fridge for weekly lunches!  Homemade pizza tonight!  🙂

  • You’ve had to deal with various injuries in the last year or so. What is your strategy for dealing with an injury?

Oh dear me.  I hate being injured.  I research the injury online, ask everyone I know how they’ve dealt with it, and then usually make a stupid decision to keep training.

Last year I had tennis elbow—which kept me from swimming and bicycling until April (note O’Rourke Triathlon is in late April—I was not prepared).

I finally healed and was slammed with the worst case of asthma I had ever experienced (I’m still trying to learn how to manage it—I was just diagnosed with it in 2009).  I had to stay inside—couldn’t do the Color Run I signed up for in May.

By June my asthma was gone and I had a bike wreck and partially separated my shoulder.  Not only was kayaking out, so was biking, swimming AND golfing.  FINALLY got over that by late September then BOOM!

Plantar Fasciitis.  By that point, I was so frustrated.  I researched online and asked my readers what I should do.  I vaguely remember most people said, “run through the pain.”  They probably didn’t, but people hear what they want to hear. From October until Thanksgiving, I kept running on that pain.  My sister and I did a Turkey Trot and when I got home, I could not walk.  I was done.  The Physical Therapist said, “You should not have run through the pain—it will now take MUCH longer to heal.”

Lesson learned. Now I’m going to Dr. Leon at Sport and Spine—he does Active Release Therapy. He said I’ll be back to running in two weeks because I have stayed off my foot! Phew! I’ll be ready for the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon after all!

  • Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?

I used to do them in softball all the time, but I used to win all the time in softball.  I’ve only recently moved up to the middle 1/3 in my age group for Triathlon.  So I see no use for them.  My goal is to keep racing until I am the only one left in my age group—then maybe I can win first place!  THEN I’ll have a ritual!  🙂

  • Describe your philosophy for life in a six-word sentence…

Live, laugh, love, and be outside!

  • What is the most important advice that you can give to readers?


[I also like: You’re the biggest obstacle in your own success]

  • Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Every day I can do something physical is a day I should do something physical. There will come a time I cannot. I never want to look back and think, “Why didn’t I at least go for a walk that day?”

  • Aside from your blog, do you have any other social media presence where you are happy to be followed?

I’m trying to simplify my life, so I’m fading away from FaceBook and refuse to begin Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Scoop it!  I am not on Bloglovin, but if anyone wants to join me at Strava (Sandra “Yakkergirl”) or Garmin Connect (yakkergirl), please do!

Thank you so much to Sandra for agreeing to be interviewed – please go and check out her great blog 🙂

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