Texas Beef Team members describe fellow member, Keili Manivanh-Lee, as outgoing, upbeat and an instant friend. She’s also quite the foodie and if you visit her social media, your taste buds will get worked up over photos of outings to try self-described “bizarre foods” or her homemade meals that experiment with various cultural influences.
Today, Keili lives in Killeen, Texas but in 1979 she, along with her parents and two brothers, were refugees from Laos, landing in Stockton, CA. Four years later, they moved to a farm in Modesto, CA. “We grew up poor. However, on the farm we were able to raise cows, chickens, pigs and other cattle and farm animals. I truly enjoyed being on a farm and it also reminded my parents of their life in Laos,” Keili fondly reminisces.
In 1985, Keili and her family moved to Texas and, thanks to her parents’ hard work ethic, they were able to purchase a home and land in Venus, Texas, a property where her oldest brother still lives today. Keili misses that country life and, each year, as sort of an homage, plants a backyard garden with the dream of one day moving out of the city limits to raise farm animals again. “One of the reasons I joined the Texas Beef Team was to educate myself and to enhance my understand of ranching. I’ve learned so much from the videos and opportunities to meet other farmers and ranchers,” says Keili.
Of course, Keili is also on the Texas Beef Team for the fitness aspect. While she ran track in high school, Keili didn’t revisit running on a regular basis until 2015, the same year she finished her first half marathon at The Route 66 in Oklahoma. “I started running/walking again because I wanted to stay active and live a healthier lifestyle,” Keili states. This motivation was spurred, in large part, by her mother who suffered a stroke in 2013 and in 2015.
“With physical therapy and regular exercise, my mom’s strength returned,” Keili explains, “and while she didn’t gain complete movement of her left side again, my mom began walking again without assistance. I would walk with her on weekends, it was an amazing sight to see her mobile! Prior to her passing in May 2019, she walked an entire mile around the local football track without assistance. We all celebrated!”
The “never give-up” attitude and unwavering perseverance of Keili’s mother despite difficult times really left a mark on her daughter. Today, Keili says she “walks and runs for those that cannot” and is inspired by those who “refuse to give up.” She is currently training to walk/run The TROT Jackalope Jam, 100-mile trail race so that she can add “Ultra Marathoner” to her resume.
Three Unusual Facts: 1) I’m multilingual (English, Lao, Thai and conversational Spanish); 2) I like to eat bizarre foods; and 3) I love the farm/country life.
Running Squad: Daily walks/jogs with husband, Herman, and sometimes with kids. Also, I run with Beef Team members, or TEAM RWB and the Trail Racing Over Texas (TROT) Tribe.
Day Job: Administrative Assistant to Community/District Relations/ Communications Services with Killeen ISD
Hobbies: Cooking, traveling, event designing, arts & crafts, furniture refurbishing, gardening and running of course! Also, to stay fit, I swim and workout at the local YMCA, jump rope, ride my bike, and play volleyball. And, playing corn hole is fun, if it’s considered a sport!
Beef Team Memories: My favorite Beef Team memory is anytime my fellow Beef Team members are cheering for me whether I turn a corner, get a drink at an aide station, or cheering for me at the finish line. Also, I really enjoyed the Grilling 101, especially the camaraderie and learning other ways to cook and grill.
Favorite Races: My favorite Beef sponsored race is Miracle Match Race Series. It’s a local race in Waco with a large group of participants and volunteers. I also like any of the Trail Racing Over Texas (TROT) races because of the excellent support and love of trail events in general. The Race Director, Rob Goyen, and his team always put on a great event! I was selected to be part of the TROT Tribe this year.
Memorable PR: I’ve wanted to run/walk a sub 3:30 half marathon and I finally accomplished it at the Louisiana Marathon in Baton Rouge, LA on January 2020.
Post Run Reward: After each run, I reward myself by eating a donut, drinking a soda and eating a good meal!
Favorite Type of Run: My favorite runs are trail runs. The scenery is different and I love the sound of nature. I also prefer smaller races as compared to larger ones.
Recovering from Running Setbacks: I had surgery on both feet due to Plantar Fasciitis (right foot in 2017, left foot in 2018) and slowly built back strength by taking it one day at a time. When my mom passed away in May 2019, I fell into a slump but had friends to help pick me up. I walked the Miracle Match Half on February 10, 2020 days before I had surgery to remove a tumor in my abdomen on February 14, 2020. The COVID19 pandemic gave me extra time to heal, but once I was cleared by my doctor I was up and walking the neighborhood.
Race Mantra: “Your race, your pace.” I run not to compete or finish first but to prove to myself that I can complete the race, I will finish and not quit.
Dream Celebrity Running Partner: This is a hard question to answer- I would have loved to walk with the Dali Lama so I can gain wisdom. If I had to choose someone current, I would select, Jason Momoa, aka “Aquaman”. I think he’d be a great cheerleader and fun to run with.
Running Advice: “Run to finish.”
Favorite Running Shoe: Altra Torin because of their wide toe box
Beef Cuts I Love: Brisket and sirloin. Really, I love all cuts of beef. I like to experiment cooking beef to incorporate different cultures.
Favorite Beef Recipe: I like to cook a simple beef and Chinese broccoli stir fry. Sautee about two cloves of crushed and finely chopped fresh garlic and ½ tsp. of coarsely chopped ginger on medium high heat until fragrant. Add entire bundle of cut Chinese broccoli and stir fry for about 3 minutes. Add ½ pound of thinly sliced beef, 1 tsp of oyster sauce, 1 tsp of soy sauce, ½ tsp of salt, ½ tsp of sugar, ¼ tsp of black or white pepper, (taste and adjust according to taste preference), add cornstarch slurry (mix 1/4 cup of water and 1 tbsp. of cornstarch), and cook until desired beef doneness (I like medium rare). Serve beef stir fry over hot steamed jasmine rice.
What I’ve Learned About Beef: I’ve learned that beef is nutritious, even if consumed daily. One skill that I’ve learned about beef is that I should be cut against the grain, it’s more tender that way! I love Texas Beef Team for all of the opportunities it’s provided me and all of the friendships I’ve made thus far.