Team Feature: Headings United - Mandy & Alex

March 14th, 2024

As Team #139 Headings United of Mandy Brezina and Alex Gilman crossed the finish line of the 2023 Rebelle Rally, they were already plotting their plans for their 2024 return to the start line. The pair met while out west searching for adventure, and supported each other when they competed with different partners in the 2022 Rebelle. After participating in the rally that year, they teamed up in 2023, drawn together by shared goals and mutual approaches to challenges. Opting to compete in Mandy’s 2022 Bone Stock Rivian R1T – one of five EVs in that year’s competition – they switched between driver and navigator roles and placed 11th in the 4×4 class. Now, as they prepare for 2024, they’re looking forward to building off last year’s success and facing new challenges together. Read on to see what the duo has been up to, discover their daily lives outside of the Rebelle, and gain some valuable insight for new competitors!

Mandy Brezina, an Army veteran and 4x Rebelle based in Maryland, balances her time between managing and coaching at her own CrossFit gym and working as a subject matter expert with the Department of Defense. Competing in the Rebelle with Rivian R1T proved to be more than a simple registration process for the team. “It took a lot of people signing off for us to take the R1T, and we’re so thankful to Emily Miller, Renewable Innovations, and Rivian for making that possible!” the team shared. “I had owned the vehicle for over a year and felt very comfortable understanding the differences between an electric vehicle and an internal combustion engine. The dimensions of the vehicle were similar to that of my previous vehicle, the Jeep Gladiator, which is also Alex’s daily driver.”

Less than an hour down the road, in Alexandria, Virginia, 2x Rebelle Alex Gilman does project management for various FEMA efforts. A rookie in 2022, when she returned in 2023 with Mandy as a partner, Alex wasn’t as anxious about the rally. “As a rookie, you’ve trained, and though the veteran Rebelles had been gracious in sharing insights and experience, you don’t really know what to expect or how you’ll handle the intensity of the week until you do it.” The rally has also profoundly impacted Alex, changing her both personally and professionally. “Heading to Tech Inspection almost feels like coming home. The experience has helped my confidence and improved my self-value. With work, good or bad, the small things that go wrong don’t feel as detrimental and I rarely feel I can’t solve a problem,” Alex notes. She’s also been inspired to push her team to adopt creative problem-solving skills, mirroring the rally’s demands. “I think my experiences have also made me challenge my staff to think outside the box and problem-solve. We have to do so much problem-solving during the rally, and I’d like my work team to feel comfortable doing the same. I’m not sure they always appreciate the push though.”

The pair hasn’t yet unveiled their choice of vehicle for the 2024 Rebelle, but their anticipation is high for getting back out on the course, reuniting with fellow competitors, and exploring the locations Rebelle Rally Founder/Director Emily Miller has chosen for this year’s eagerly-awaited route. As with many returning teams, they’re even a little scared to see what new challenges they’ll be facing as the competition evolves year after year.

And as the duo prepares for their second Rebelle together as Headings United, they’ll never forget the excitement and nerves of preparing for the rally as first time competitors. Their advice for future teams? Alex’s top tip for rookies is to hit the ground running with training. “There is no substitute for practicing plotting points as much as you can. And time goes by so quickly in the early mornings.” Mandy’s advice is simple, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable! If you can embrace the challenge of working on your weaknesses, you’ll be amazed at what you are capable of!”

Look for Mandy and Alex at the 2024 Rebelle Rally start line; they are certain to be a force to be reckoned with!