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NEWS | Nov. 7, 2014

AF Reservist preps to “rock ‘n’ roll” in honor of nephew

By Jose T. Garza III JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs

It's 9:45 a.m. on Nov. 6, and it's leg day at the Gateway Fitness Center for Tech Sgt. Rebeca Mendoza. The 433rd Medical Squadron education and training manager gasps for breath after each workout, consisting of squats, one legged extensions, and one legged presses before going out on a short run with Mike White, Gateway Fitness Center trainer.

A bike ride follows the run, but Mendoza can't take it easy and cut the session short even though the technical sergeant wishes she could after each taxing workout.

The Lorenzo, Texas native is training for the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Dec. 7 at the Alamodome, and participating in the event has extra meaning to her. Mendoza will be running in the event to honor her nephew, Christopher Hinojos, who was starting to become an active runner before his death in January 2013.

Every day that Mendoza trains and her legs "feel like lead" after a workout, the memory of her nephew is used as inspiration, she said.

"When I feel tired and feel like giving up, I think of him and it pushes me harder every time," said Mendoza, an Air Force Reservist who noted that Hinojos was close cousins with her son who was the same age.

The technical sergeant began training for the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in May under the coaching of White, who she reached out to for assistance after taking his Intense Circuit Training class on Mondays and Wednesdays. Mendoza performs weight training at the Gateway Fitness Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and runs four to five times a week. Each weight training session - consisting of a lower body workout one day and an upper body exercise the next day - is followed by a bike or elliptical exercise.

Mendoza, who has competed in the Air Force Marathon as well as local marathons and triathlons, credits White for pushing her to keep training.

"He is awesome," she said. "I needed someone who can push me to lift weights, and he is not the type to yell. I don't want to disappoint him."

White said he makes sure Mendoza performs the exercises with the right form while ensuring she doesn't coast.

So far the technical sergeant hasn't slacked off and because of that commitment, the fitness trainer feels Mendoza will do "awesome" at the marathon.

"She pushes herself harder than I want her to," White said. "Mendoza wants to go that extra mile and sometimes I want to bring her back in, but she just takes off."

Mendoza's family, including her sister, Hinojos' mother, will be cheering her on at the marathon.

"I'll have them on my mind knowing that they are going to be there," she said.

Mendoza runs five miles once a week, and aims to run between eight to 10 miles by the time of the marathon. She said her goal is to complete the race in less than two hours.

"I am confident I can do that as long as I maintain my pace," Mendoza said.