Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Transit Center officer spends deployment running ‘from Colorado Springs to Indianapolis’

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Hank Hoegen) Capt. Ross Dotzlaf runs his final 5K race at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, Dec. 10, 2011. Dotzlaf, the 376th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Programs Flight chief, set a goal to run 1,000 miles during his six-month deployment, but ended up running 1,111 miles at a 7-minute mile average. Dotzlaf is deployed from the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron.

By Master Sgt. Cindy Dorfner

376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan — When Capt. Ross Dotzlaf found out he was deploying to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, he set a goal. He decided he would run 1,000 miles in the six months he spent away from his wife, Jenny, and children, Gwyn and Hank. He hit his target a few weeks before leaving, but kept running … closing out his deployment with 1,111 miles.

For perspective, that’s like running from Colorado Springs (where he’s stationed) to Indianapolis (where he’s from); and at an average 7-minute mile pace, it took him just under five days to get there.

One could say Dotzlaf, the 376th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Programs Flight commander, has been bitten by the running bug. He competed in, and won, every 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon hosted at the Transit Center during his deployment. He struggles to remember just how many races that amounts to, but is most proud of his 2:58 finish in September’s Deployed Air Force Marathon.

The “bug” also bit members of Dotzlaf’s flight. He made their participation in the first 5K mandatory — after that, attendance was voluntary. Still, each time there was a race; all nine members from the programs flight were there. And since they improved an average of two and a half minutes on the 5K course, Senior Airman Remo Dela Cruz said it was worth it.

“I’ve been running since I joined the Air Force, but he inspires me,” said Dela Cruz, who’s in the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron with Dotzlaf at Peterson Air Force Base. “With his speed and the way he trains … it’s definitely motivating.”

With an extremely busy schedule overseeing the Transit Center’s $81 million construction program, Dotzlaf said he gets up six days a week at 4:30 a.m. and hits the pavement by 5. Otherwise, he’d find it hard to find time during the day to break away to run 40-50 miles each week.

“Everyone around the Transit Center knows ‘Captain D,’” said David Plants, Fitness Center lead. “He was Mr. Consistent — the fastest runner the whole time he was here.”

Plants said he and his staff will miss Dotzlaf, not only for his running dominance, but because he helped them with run courses.

“For the Air Force marathon, he came to all of our meetings and gave us great feedback,” Plants said. “He was very instrumental for us know what to do and what not to do when planning the race.”

Dotzlaf, 30, started running track during his freshman year at Center Grove High School in Indianapolis. Today, he said he’s conquered two marathons, and can’t count the number of half marathons and 10-milers — his two preferred distances.

At home, he runs competitively — usually a race a month — and for fun while pushing Gwyn and Hank in the jogging stroller with Jenny, who is also an avid runner.

As he heads back to Colorado (minus four pairs of shoes), Dotzlaf, a 2004 Air Force Academy graduate, said he anticipates he’ll notice the difference in elevation. Still, he said he’ll continue his fitness and stress-relief routine and look forward to his next marathon scheduled for May.

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