Meet your Race Directors
My name is Mandy Weilandt and I am one of the Race Directors for this race. I grew up in Winona and lived here almost my whole life. I got into trail running by joining some awesome people on Tuesday nights with the SE MN Trail Runners. I learned about No Runner Left Behind and all of the great semi-local trail races from these amazing people! I myself have now run too many trail races to count with my favorite finish being the 50 miler of the Zumbro Endurance Race back in 2018...the year of the epic snowstorm! I may have been DFL, but I was happy with a finish that year!! I recently organized a trail running group of Beginning trail runners and Back of the Pack trail runners. We are called the Winona B-BOPers. This group has a blast out on the trails all over the Winona and surrounding areas.
I began thinking about organizing my own trail race a few years ago. Winona doesn't have many, if any, trail races in this area. I wanted to change that! It is such a beautiful area and I want others to see what spectacular trails we have to explore!! My friend, and fellow Master Swimmer, Steve Briggs and I struck up a conversation after swimming one Saturday at Mugby Junction and the wheels started to turn....quickly!! My fellow Race Director, Bill Hansel, and I had already started lists of possible sites and race types to hold, so when Steve offered up Briggs Outdoors, we jumped as fast as we could at the opportunity!! Things are moving quickly and we hope to have more information out ASAP!!
The name of our race stems from a little story that means a lot to my daughter and I. We both have been through a lot in our lives but have come through stronger than we ever thought we could be! We both have "I am the storm" tattoos to remind us of this strength. Check out the Profile pic of our page for the story.
We will be focusing on trying to help raise some funds for local mental health care providers, with a focus on youth outpatient services. Both of our families have been touched by mental health issues and we would like to give back because of the positive outcomes of our stories.
My name is Bill Hansel and I am the co-Race Director for this race series. I grew up in the small town of Freedom, WI and moved to the Winona last fall. I had been to what is known as the Driftless Region on Minnesota for a few races in previous years and was amazed at the beauty of the area. After moving here, I continue to see new things and I am truly amazed by the area and all it has to offer. If you’re not from the area, the daily eagle sightings alone are enough to capture your interest not to mention the beautiful views from the bluffs surrounding the Mississippi River.
I started running later in life as a way to get healthy and as I moved from doing a walk/run combo to just running I started to fall in love with the feeling of pushing a little past my comfort level with each run and seeing myself grow (and lose weight). After a few years of running races from 5k to marathons, I was introduced to trail running and I found my tribe. The trail running community is a family, you are welcomed in and everyone is there to support and help you be successful. There is also something very peaceful about being out in nature following winding paths up and down hills and through open prairies. As, I found more friends in the trail running community and started to run more I found a smaller group of trail friends that pushed the limits of distance and time, which became a passion for me. Soon I was running 50 miles, then 100 miles, finally my longest distance of 206 miles. While the Bigfoot 200 was probably the hardest race I’ve run and most memorable for so many reasons, I think my favorite race and area to run is here in Driftless Region Minnesota at the Zumbro Endurance Race. The area is beautiful and challenging and it’s where I met Mandy for the first time.
For me the creation of our Race Series (spoiler alert there will be more events), has a few meanings.
First, I came to running and trail running with no real history of being an athlete, I was just welcomed in to a family that had experience they were willing to share that helped me grow and find my happy place. I want to pay that forward and do what I can to encourage everyone to get out and see what this area has to offer. Whether you are walking/hiking, run/walking, or out to crush the course we all are out there together and I want to make sure everyone get an enjoyable experience.
The second reason for the race and a contributing factor to the race name and is very similar to Mandy’s. It is by coincidence that Mandy and I share a love for the story about the Storm (see our profile pic) and what it means to be stronger than you think (and others think) you are. I have a tattoo on my left calf of a wooded trail leading directly into a lighting storm, the path is clear and you cannot avoid the storms ahead so you need to be stronger than that storm until “You are the Storm”.
As Mandy mentioned, we will be focusing on trying to help raise some funds for local mental health care providers, with a focus on youth outpatient services. We both have been touched by mental health issues in our families and we would like to give back to help eliminate the stigma around mental health and help others see the same positive outcomes getting help can provide.