JESSE: Yeah. So I’m curious, like, what do you think — I think often like, when we talk about crits, all the way from the bottom and then into the pros, I think a lot of people will talk about, oh, you know, crashes happen because people are inexperience. And you know, from doing the ERs, which is for people not familiar, which it’s an amateur draft legal race for people trying to become professional triathletes, there’s only a few of them. I know that I was definitely inexperienced going into and we had to do the clinic, I’m learning how to, you know, cycle through and doing all these things. But I’ve heard other people suggested, you know, experience isn’t the issue. What do you think causes all the crashes in crits like, what makes it so dangerous?
CECILIA: Yeah, I’ve definitely heard that hypothesis as well. I disagree with that, because I think you see these crashes happen at all levels. I think what happens is that as you get more and more and more experienced as you go from cat five to four to, you know, to three to one to pro, you have race, you gone around more corners, you’ve raced in more peloton, you are a better bike handler, and you’re more confident. And those things almost like the confidence and the skills almost just get equalized, by the more risk that you’re taking. So it’s like, if you’re, I think that the frequency of crashes continues to be pretty high because people are more confident in their bike handling skills and more comfortable in a pack. And so they’re just like getting closer to each other and taking more risks. And, you know, as evidenced by the guys in the Tour de France, like how many of them make it? 180 start, right. And by the end of the three weeks, how many are taken out by crashes? Like a third? That’s a high rate for the people who are the best bike handlers in the world.
JESSE: Right. And it’s not even like, just the — I just forgot the word. It’s not guys that are, you know, it’s the GC contenders. It’s not just like —
CECILIA: [??? 2:14] Yeah.
JESSE: Yeah, I was like, why did I forget the word, I don’t know?
CECILIA: Yeah, exactly. It is. Yeah, it’s the top contenders that get taken out every single year. And so I think that’s my understanding is that as you become more and more skilled, you’re going faster, you take more risks, and you know, your comfort gets the best of you. And you’re racing more as well, I think so yeah, heightens the risks. And I think at the lower levels, the crashes, you know, do happen because of kind of poor handling and inexperience, but the kind of rate ends up being the same if that makes sense.
JESSE: Yeah. It’s like almost like an over exhuberist or what’s the word, brashness, almost.
CECILIA: Yeah, something like that. And I think maybe not even — yeah, I there’s some element of that, but just the nature of I’ll say, 50 to 100, people in close proximity on tiny wheels going 30, 40, 50 miles an hour, like it’s something and there being imperfections in the road and imperfections in someone’s attention and it’s just going to happen. And it’s so many times I’ve crashed when I was bike racing, I did this tour, Nature Valley Grand Prix, seven day stage race, it was like some of the best cyclists in the world. And I crashed four times in one race, four times, and none of them were my fault or none of them were an error that I had made. Maybe once I sort of overcooked a turn, but it was, I fell because somebody in front of me fell and I hit them. So, it’s like that’s what you’re eliminating mostly in triathlon, you know, the circumstances of your crash or others I’ve seen where people kind of get jumbled up in one another, that can happen because of the nature of non drafting, you know, it was more spread out. And even in ITU just seems like people are spread out a little bit more by the swim, which helps. And then I think the culture of the racing is a little more safe it seems like. So you’re getting fewer, you know, super dangerous crashes from my understanding.
JESSE: Right. I mean, with the ITU, it almost seems like you definitely have everybody trying to get together in a peloton – or the breakaways. But it’s almost at the same time, like, some of the girls or guys, I guess, know, okay, if I’m back a minute, like, I’m the best runner in the field. Like, I still have time, you know, the finish line of the bike is not the finish line. So, it’s like, there’s a little bit of more whole race, like holistic methodology, instead of just the lines of line, we got to risk everything to make it there by the end of the bike.
CECILIA: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point, the mentality is like the shift is a little bit different for the ITU which is just one leg.
JESSE: So, I’m going to go down a different direction, just because this is a personal curiosity. So, if you’re watching this conversation, you just have to come along for the ride. So, I’m curious about your time in France, if you watch the tour, what took you to France? And kind of that period of your life before you’d gotten here?
CECILIA: Yeah. Oh, for sure. I’ve always been a Francophile, you could say ever since I started taking French in middle school. I just love the culture and the food and the art and the history. I thought it was fascinating. And I did an exchange there when I was 14 and I lived with the family in Normandy for a month and that kind of planted the seed and I get attached with a [??? 6:07] and then, yeah, I always knew that either I wanted to study abroad there in college or go and live there after college. And I ended up deciding not to do the semester abroad because I really love my college experience. And it couldn’t imagine like taking a semester away from being on that, you know, campus I loved up at Williams. So I thought, well, why not have my cake and eat it too and I can just go live there for a year after college. And I went to the fellowships office school and said, “What can I do to live in France for a year?” And found me this French government teaching fellowship, we didn’t really need to have too much teaching experience but as long as you were game and spoke French pretty well and we’re willing to teach like elementary schoolers English then you know, that was the requirement.
And so I ended up doing that and got placed in a rural part of France called Laurin province and in a small town, well a very small town of 3000 people was where my school was. But I was given the good advice to live in the slightly bigger town that was adjacent which is called Verdon, which people might know for the battle in the world war one like a million or was like the German French border, you know front. So yeah, I loved it. It was a real blessing in disguise to be in such a rural area because I made friends who you know, were just so like open to meeting in American and teaching me about their culture and taking me under their wing and I got to do a lot of traveling throughout the country and that’s where I really discovered how much I love to ride bikes and such a great place to do it there. The drivers are very respectful.
JESSE: So, this is something I’m always curious about because like [speaking French 8:04]. Okay, so back to English. But like, I spent a year like on Skype with a lady from Quebec because I love Montreal. So, I decided to learn French because of that. But like my level sucks and I always feel like a lot of people did just learn the language in high school didn’t get a chance to practice it. So I’m, how did like, how was your high school experience or like school experience learning French, like good enough to get to the point where they’re like, yeah, I like your French is great like, come over and teach English?
CECILIA: Man, you know, I’ve always been like a languages person for sure. I took Latin as well, it sort of helped solidify the French, but I think also, I’m pretty okay with like, you’re French sounds great enough to me. I think it’s part of like —
JESSE: Well, thanks. I feel like I need to practice a lot more. I’m like, it’s —
CECILIA: Yeah. So, I think part of my secret is that I’m pretty confident and I just like start talking and it just comes. And so again, not afraid even though, even if I have to, like talk my way around something because I don’t know the right vocab words. And then I think keep like you’re saying practice is huge. I practice like any chance I can get and I have. I remember after I’d done that exchange in ninth grade, and my friends was pretty good after coming home from a month of it living with this family who didn’t speak much English. And I would like to speak to tourists on the street that I saw to try to keep it up. I write letters to my pen pal. And even now like in the hospital, if I see a patient who is from like, Ivory Coast, or Senegal or Haiti, I try to speak to them and French. And I say oh, I’ll go interview that patient because I speak French to kind of keep it up. My fiance also speaks French, so we kind of —
JESSE: Well, that’s super convenient.
CECILIA: Yeah. Not that we speak it to each other really that much, but we do have when he was studying abroad there, he made a friend in Paris who now lives in New York. So, we have them over often and so that kind of helps, too. But yeah, I think practice is certainly the key and then trying to go to the — we go to France like you know, I’ve been a couple times in since then. So that helps too to kind of reinvigorate your skills and movies.
JESSE: Yeah, it’s always like, my difficulties always trying to find something that’s like, the correct level. Because I mean, it’s easy enough to pick up a French movie, but then it’s like, okay, a lot of this vocabulary and the speed is, you know, well beyond my listening abilities. So that’s, you know, that’s some of the like, difficulty.
CECILIA: Yeah, that is tough.
JESSE: I’ve got a fair number of other questions, I guess I can ask you. So, something I’m curious about is like, with all the traveling, like, between med school and traveling for racing, and you know, all that kind of stuff. Like I know most people have kind of stress related to travel even if you’re just sitting on a plane. So, like do you have any strategies or like any like tips I guess on how to deal with like getting ready to go race and then coming back and like fitting all that in without just being burned?
CECILIA: Yeah, like have a packing list. Use the same like bags if you can and put things in the same places, just like having routine I think helps a lot. Like when I use my bike box I like pack it in the same way and put things like the same places, I think that helps. As far as the traveling itself, yeah, I guess I’m not super stressed out about it. I kind of, I find it like it’s sort of reserved time when you’re on the plane to like take care of things you didn’t have chance to do when you were back home or read when you like I was protected time, which is nice. But yeah, I think control all the things that you — you know, make it routine as much as you can. You know, no fly from the same airports over and over. I got like so good at renting cars from Atlanta because I like I race in Augusta and[??? 13:02] and it was like the rental car places, this is not stressful because I know where the bus to get the rental car place is, I know where the gas station and you know, as much as you can make your life easier because of those like routines. I think that makes it a whole lot less stressful and like bringing your own food. Always like knowing where the water fountains are, making sure you fill up stuff like that as much yeah, keeping things normal for you. And yeah, and of course, sometimes, you know, your flight gets delayed, and you don’t get until 3am and you have to go to class the next day, you know, that happens. But you kind of have to, you know, those are the times when you take the you know, $60 cab to get home quick. So, you kind of have to parse it out.
JESSE: Yeah, kind of like Atlanta for you, Philadelphia is like, a lot of times I’m racing, if I’m headed out somewhere, somehow I end up being routed through Philadelphia. So, I’m like, that’s my airport. Like, I know where the food court is like I know which wing I need to go to. So, it’s like, that’s something — Yeah, but the plane is like, big, you know, at least for me keeping the stress down like, all right, before I get on the plane, like, I’ve got my compression socks on and like, I got to fill my water bottle up, and I’ve got everything I need and yeah, do that checklist. I want to bounce back because like I don’t want to miss this. I have like such a hodgepodge of questions for you because that’s the nature of like, smart athletes, they do a little bit everything. But I want to talk about your — I think you did — you’re the lead researcher for concussion research. Is that correct?
CECILIA: Yeah, I did. I’ve done a bunch of concussion research, yeah. And I worked with mostly a neurologist who does, that’s one of his, like primary areas of research, and then sort of a team of Sports Medicine providers who are kind of team physicians, as well. So I kind of had a couple projects they worked on – like epidemiology, kind of characterizing the sports related concussions that happen among athletes at Columbia where I’m a student, you know, sort of Ivy league D1 program. And then there was an MRI study we did like having athletes undergo brain scans after their concussion, try to look at the minor changes that go on. And yeah, I love — Another study I did looking at the rates of like orthopedic or musculoskeletal injury that happened like in the period following concussion and see if there’s any data, there’s some hypothesis there that, you know, your balance and coordination might be off, or you’re kind of not fully recovered and more prone to getting other injuries. So, you know, that was what I did my thesis in those two years where I took extra time in med school.
JESSE: Okay. So, the last one was, you’re basically trying to figure out whether these other correlation or causation, I guess, really correlation because you can’t necessarily prove the causation at that point. We all know that’s a no no with research. So, it’s trying to prove the correlation between like a higher risk of musculoskeletal injury in people with concussions?
CECILIA: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. You know, of course, we don’t know that much about what actually happens during a concussion. We know that it’s a brain injury, but we really don’t know a good way to measure whether it’s happened or not, whether that’s by an image or a blood test, or whatever. We don’t have a good diagnostic tool. So really, right now, it’s like clinical diagnosis, like, oh, do you have a headache and you have dizziness, and you probably have a concussion. So, I think researchers are yearning to find other ways to characterize concussion. And one sort of hypothesis is that men when these athletes are returning to play, it seems like they’re getting hurt more than they would otherwise and not had a concussion, and is there really a link there? So that was like what we were trying to look at. And it does seem like there is some link there and we don’t know what’s causing that. Because the kids who are getting concussions are also more likely to get an injury because they’re injury prone in general, that’s possible too…control for that. But, yeah, it’s a really fascinating disease and really, we know so, so little. And so there’s a lot of room for breakthroughs in the field.
JESSE: I mean, it seems like almost like a hyper focus on it now is for good reasons. So, I’m kind of curious, do you know anything about like — I watch a lot of soccer. I mean, you played soccer, I don’t know how much you actually still watch.
CECILIA: Yeah, a little bit.
JESSE: So there’s a concussion protocol that, like the trainers come out and check if there’s a head injury, and then there’s like, they run the athlete through some kind of protocol. I mean, I don’t know what it is, you know anything about that? If there’s such a hard time like actually diagnosing that, like do you know anything about what they’re doing or what kind of reliance that like liability that has?
CECILIA: Yeah, so I think what they’re probably doing is what’s called a SCAT. And it’s like the Sideline Concussion Assessment Tool, SCAT, and it is a little card that you know, you can have and whip it out and you ask all these different questions, just like a set of questions called the Maddox questions that ask you, you know, who’s the opponent we’re playing? What position are you? What happened in the last play? And it’s kind of to see how good your recent memory is because that can be a common symptom of concussion. And there’s also like a checklist of different symptoms you might be feeling. So it asks you, you know, right now, do you have a headache, nausea? Did you vomit, you know, do you tingling sensation, you know all these symptoms. And it asks you to repeat numbers after the examiner has said them. So it says please, you know, repeat after me 9, 4, 0, 2, 8 and then the athlete says 9, 4, 0, 2, 8. And if you can’t do them you get minus points and it does have some validity in serving as a diagnostic tool for concussions.
So, if you have a low SCAT score, it is a high likelihood that you have a concussion and they typically pull you out of the play. And I’ve seen this done, you know, when I mentioned I was considering sports medicine, and so I shadowed team position on the sidelines of football game mostly and saw this done. And I think it is a tool, I think it helps the provider, the doctor usually, or the athletic trainer to give some quantitative measure to what they’re seeing in the athlete, I think often what you see is that they, that provider knows what they want to do. They know okay, this kid has a concussion, we just need to like — But if we show him score 27 out of 50, he’s going to be more likely to be amenable to being pulled from the game.
JESSE: Right, instead of just making a like a [??? 20:36] call or what seems like a – call.
CECILIA: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, there are a couple of tools like that, that are really useful and you know, more to come. I think people would love to have like some sort of, you know, sweat test or blood tests, or like something you could do on the spot. But I think we’re pretty far from that at this point. Or at least, you know, some sort of quick, easy, you know, if you can’t cut your finger to your nose and to your toe or something, you know, something [??? 21:36]. But yeah, I think it’s complicated and nuanced, and we’re not quite there.
JESSE: Okay. So, I’ll give you this one last question. This is a question I asked everybody because it’s so varied. It’s always good to get different responses. But if you can only eat one thing for recovery for the rest of your life, what do you choose?
CECILIA: Oh, that’s pretty easy actually, for me. So, I love to make my own pancakes. And my fiance calls them CC cakes, because they’re not really like there’s no recipe. I like put whatever I want in them like, depending on if I’m making them for someone else like I might kind of modify it. But yeah, so and I love to eat that like after I come back from a big swim or like whatever, a run in the morning I always make like pancakes and eggs, have real Vermont maple syrup. So, definitely CC cakes.
JESSE: So I mean, what makes them different I guess?
CECILIA: Yeah, I throw in there — Okay, so depends on the mood I’m feeling but often like this special — I always put like usually whole wheat flour, but sometimes I’ll throw in like some have this like vanilla protein powder I put in there, it tastes really good [??? 22:31] protein pancake. Sometimes I’ll put in like wheat bran or you know and I’ll put a nuts and raisins, sometimes vanilla extract, sometimes almond extract, which most people think’s disgusting but I love it. Yeah, nuts like berries, you know, you name it, I can throw it in there.
JESSE: So, it’s just like basically whatever you want is the essence of it?
CECILIA: Whatever I want. Yeah. Even when it turns out, as long as you put like, some sort of flour-ish, you know, it doesn’t need to be all flour but some flour, some like leavening like baking powder or something and then like egg and you know either like yogurt or milk. It like turns like into basically a pancakey form, you know. It’s like if you think sometimes they come out like totally flat or not just like cardboard or something but that never happens, it’s kind of magic.
JESSE: Well, I’ll have to try it out. I don’t know that I’m like quite as impromptu as — Although I guess I wish I could be. So, maybe it’s like you said earlier you just like you just got to dive in.
CECILIA: Yeah, dive in [??? 23:45]
JESSE: So Cecilia, if people want to follow you, get in touch with you, kind of see what kind of antics you’re up to, where should they go?
CECILIA: Yeah, for sure. I am not the best at my social media. I have to admit I sort of blame that on my other busy life. It’s not…excuse but I don’t know I do have a website. It’s on my name, CeciliaDavisHayes.com. Update that with some regularity, and then I’ve got an Instagram also Cecilia Davis Hayes, which I post photos and stuff and results on. So yeah, check me out there.
JESSE: Sounds great. Thanks for coming on today, Cecilia.
CECILIA: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. Pleasure to speak with you.