June 2021 Member Spotlight
Laura Alicia Rodriguez from Maysfield, is an inspirational individual and role model we are proud to have on the Texas Beef Team for the last 5 years.
Laura has been in the United States Marine Corps for 14 years and just re-enlisted for another four years; she serves today in the role of Staff Sergeant. The Marines have the lowest ratio of women among all of the U.S. military branches, with enlisted female at only 9%, according to the Department of Defense. “I am the only female Staff Sergeant (E6) in my unit and I have 52 males under my charge,” reports Laura. Additionally, she serves as Maintenance Supply Chief for Combat Logistics Battalion 453 in Waco; is an Academic Advisor at Temple College; owns and operates a small cow-calf operation with her father; and is a community advocate and volunteer through several notable veteran and civil rights organizations (further outlined below).
“Being a civilian and in the military is super demanding on the body and in life,” says Laura. “At times, I am away from family and friends for weeks. The training and physical fitness standards keep getting harder and I have to learn to adapt. Whether training at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California or mountain training for cold weather, it never seems to be a boring day. I get to travel to some really cool military locations. It is an honor to serve my country.”
However, Laura is not all work and no play! Her surprise hobby is playing chess, but mostly she thrives on everything related to being outdoors. “I absolutely love hunting, fishing (mostly river fishing throughout different rivers in Texas), hiking, cycling, visiting Texas State Parks (I hope to visit every single one), traveling, hanging out with my dog Scrags, and gardening. I’ve planted everything from tomatoes, banana peppers, jalapenos, and bell peppers to lettuce, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, and Tabasco peppers,” she elaborates.
Laura has been running since she was a kid. “I ran in middle school and was on the track team and cross-country team in high school. Around this time, I discovered a passion for both running and lifting weights. I had a high school coach who truly believed in me, Coach King. He pushed me hard in distance running and taught me technique. I always wanted to thank him for that.”
However, Laura had to eventually give up extracurricular sports in high school. “I’m from a family of Mexican immigrants where money was short and work came before hobbies,” she explains. “I wouldn’t change this situation for the world though. Being a teenager and having to go to a job right after class taught me the meaning of hard work and dedication. I was able to keep running on my own, during my ‘off’ time and, after graduating, picked up weight-lifting again.”
To date, this inspirational lady has run “a ridiculous number of races” including 5ks, 10ks, 10 milers, half marathons, trail runs, obstacle course races – but never yet a full marathon. However, she plans to put a check mark by that marathon accomplishment in December 2021 by finishing the BCS Marathon in College Station.
Volunteering: I am a member of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and enjoy helping young Latinos find their passion and path to education. I am also a member of the NAACP chapter for Temple College. As an academic advisor, I get to be a part of so much in the central Texas community. For example, during COVID we opened up the Central Texas Food Pantry to help students and their families with essential supplies and necessities. LULAC also supports scholarship funding for students and annually we choose a winner based on their presentations. It’s a wonderful event! I also promote TEAM RWB which helps enrich the lives of Veterans through fitness and community involvement. Being in the Marine Corps has also been very rewarding, especially around the holidays, when we do our Toys for Tots drive. It’s a volunteer event and we set up drop off locations all over Texas to receive donated toys. This past year, I volunteered at the Waco location where we received hundreds of donated toys. It took days to sort, bag, and wrap these toys, but it was worth every minute. It is a truly humbling event that my Marines and I look forward to every year.
Cattle Business: Many are surprised to learn I rent land and have cattle and calves. It’s a small business operation that I work with my dad. All cattle sales we take to the cattle auction in Cameron or Calvert, Texas. I name each one of my babies and mamas.
Beef Team Memories: Favorite memory of a Beef Team race was early on when I didn’t know anyone and walked up to a big crew of Beef shirts and introduced myself. EVERYONE was so nice and happily answered all my questions and we took photos together. I felt so welcomed and part of something great. I also have a recent great memory of picking up my steaks on Jerry’s “Texas Road Trip.” So many of us were waiting in line and so excited about our beef. We joked around and took photos together while – it’s always great to meet others who enjoy steak as much as I do.
Favorite Races: My favorite Beef-sponsored race is the BCS Marathon + Half Marathon in College Station. This race is absolutely amazing and hands-down my favorite. They have the best swag, including hoodies or jackets given to the finishers and a great post-race party with awesome food. I also appreciate the pacers who keep me pushing myself and help me out on my time. I also really like the Temple Texas Turkey Trot, it’s just so fun!
Beef Team Love: I am very grateful for this team. It was rough on me during the COVID pandemic and even still some today. I felt like the world kept moving on and I could not. I was in a running and race funk. I went from racing every week to not having a single run. Since I was not comfortable racing yet, I really depended on team mates posting their race photos and videos on our Facebook group. I truly am inspired by the individuals in the group. Often, the military keeps me busy on the weekends and I cannot make events or races and it gets me down. But when I see the motivation on this team, I truly feel inspired!
Obstacles: Time… time is hard to find these days. With my busy schedule including military duties and volunteer work, it’s hard to find time for races lately. I try to not let being sidelined bother me and tell myself that where I am right now is God’s plan. I train on my lunch breaks and usually in the morning before the start of my work day. I know eventually all the hard work will pay off. The recent pandemic has also been an obstacle. It affected me tremendously. I couldn’t get out of my funk and gained some serious weight. I finally woke up one day and said “snap out of it STAFF SERGEANT and act like a MARINE.” What motivated me to move forward was clocking the worst run time of my life. Right then and there I told myself, “that’s it . . . I owe it to myself to do better.” I got back on track with my diet and put my running shoes in my bag to take to work every day for a run.
Motivation: Iron sharpens iron. My motivation is those around me, whether a co-worker picking up a new workout routine, my Marines hitting a new Physical Fitness Test PR, or this team of amazing athletes showing me how to get things done!
Running Groups: I also run with Team RWB, a national organization with local chapters that provide inclusive opportunities for veterans and the community to connect through physical and social activity. It’s awesome to find people you have things in common with. In the gym I mainly train on my own to stay focused and set my mind on accomplishing the mission.
Favorite Distance: I like the half marathon! I keep a slow and steady pace, enjoy the route, and just let my mind run free. I often do my best thinking on a run.
Running Advice: Don’t worry about anyone else around you, just run for the love of the run. Run to get healthy and be free. Leave the rest behind you and do not doubt yourself - we can be our worst critics. Push past your comfort zone and it’s okay to not meet a goal. It’s okay to come in last place - at least you finished the race you started.
Running Gear: A must have piece of running gear for me is a hat or sweat band – I need that sweat off my face!
Run Playlist: My favorite song to listen to while running is Hail to the King and anything by Avenge Sevenfold or Five Finger Death Punch!
Other Sports: I lift weights, do yoga and cycle a lot. I used to compete in NPC bodybuilding bikini class A competitions. That process was very demanding on the body, and I eventually changed that lifestyle due to how lean it kept me. Military RUCK marches are always a must, as well!
Favorite Beef Cuts: Brisket and ribs
Beef Recipe I Love: Beef fajitas with onion, bell peppers and mushrooms. Also, homemade chili prepared with a lean ground beef.
What I’ve Learned: Going to the Grilling 101 changed my life. Especially the portion about proper cooking temperature and how to keep meat moist.
Post-Race Reward: I often reward myself with a delicious steak after a hard workout of run. Also, nothing like a great glass of red wine!
Pre-race Meal: The night before a race I eat pasta – it also fuels the soul!