My First Duathlon (Sprint Distance)

Around two weeks to the event, I decided to join the Powerade Sprint Duathlon, 3rd Leg. 7km run - 30km bike - 3.5km run. Macapagal Road, MOA area.

Aside from a few trails with friends, plus biking around the village and Ayala Alabang, I haven’t really had ample saddle time for this event. Add to this, I had a mountain bike instead of the appropriate road bike. Was really in this for the experience, and to have fun...

(Photos by Jingle Buena)

Early morning! Me, Arnold Buena and King Fernandez. Arnold is an accomplished composer/arranger.
early am pic

Another musician friend in the race! Hannah Romawac-Olives of Sessionroad.

Off we go!

(photo below courtesy of Thumbie Remigio)


Having an easy run and trying to practice my Chi-Running form

Transition to bike portion. Lagoooooooot! See, I was able to overtake a lot of people during the 1st run. But knew I was about to get smoked.... Smile pa rin!

At the bike turnaround...

This is funny! Got this photo from Thumbie Remigio’s site. Mountain biker trying to keep up with roadies! I was trying to mimic their position on the handlebars to minimize air resistance. It tired my arms out a lot. Deo P., a strong triathlete who is very helpful in the forums, once advised, “Leave the roads to the road bikes and the trails to the mountain bikes.” NOW I know why.

On a side note, I’d do this again, in spite of it all. I don’t see myself becoming a road biker anytime in the immediate future, but I’d still join duathlons occasionally for the fun and physical training. Why not? It’ll add to my fitness for the trails, and help me get fit for cross-country mountain bike racing in the future. With some more saddle time, I think I can aim for a pretty decent finish next time. (Of course I still plan to ride trails mostly)

Finishing. Haaay, salamat! Around thirty minutes shy of the 3-hour cutoff.

King, me, and Arnold at the finish line. King is really strong - he finished this event in an even heavier mountain bike than mine.

Thanks to Powerade and organizers for a successful event!


Run1: 0:41:42 (including transition 1)
Bike: 1:30:05 (including transition 2)
Run 2: 0:25:08
Total: 2:36:55

I placed 15th.... out of 16 females! Yahoo! Hehehe. But the important thing is, I finished...

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Haay September Na...

Haaay... I had originally set up this blog with the goal of writing weekly. It turned out to be harder than I thought.

It’s hard because I want to write interesting things, maybe some more orchestration or MIDI tutorials, maybe some album and band reviews, and definitely stuff I learn and experience in music, . For my hobbies such as running and biking, I want to write nice accounts of what happened, during my training and racing. Unfortunately, I don’t have the discipline for really churning out weekly content.

So now, just to not let this week pass without any new content, I’ll just post a rundown of my September so far.

Moved to a “new” space in the office (mid-August pala ito)
- once a resident of the third floor, my suite is now in the fourth, where I now have access to “my own” vocal booth. Yahoo!
- my third move ever since I started working in Carmel House Studios.

Recordings for Aiza Seguerra
- new album coming up! It’ll be a Singapore release.

here’s a video with me on piano (from the last album release)

Flow gigs
- continued playing for Flow, a musical/dance/acrobatic show in Pagcor. Full big band setup here, and my father Mel Villena is the musical director.

Learn more about Flow here

Singing Bee gigs
- am still writing for SInging Bee, the evening game show. I write music sheets for the band, for those songs that stop in the middle, and contestants have to complete the lyrics.


Arranged music for our company’s choir
- Globalink’s choir, whose album is in the works.

Attended big band clinics at Ten 02 Bar
- with the intention of honing my big band arranging skills, and of course hanging out with the cool musicians. Sometimes I played piano too.

Now arranging music for Eat Bulaga’s Bulilit Birit
- Yup, I’m doing this at the moment, and just taking a break from it.. need to submit the arrangements tomorrow afternoon.

Attended the iBike clinic
- there are some photos here

Attained my best 10k time so far
- At Ayala Eco-Dash race. And this was unintended (1hr. 3 mins. for the 10k). I think I would’ve done better if I hadn’t been biking the whole day before.

Joined my first Duathlon (sprint distance: 7k run, 30k bike, 3.5k run)
- dismal finish, but the point is, I finished! Now I know what I need to train for, for next time.

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Whew, I think that’s a lot so far! No wonder I don’t get to blog much. I think it gets even crazier when the -ber months are well underway.

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This Week’s Tasks...


Photos from Dirt Weekend

Dex and I attended the Dirt Weekend bike clinic last September 12.

photos from

Drills: proper warm-up, jumps (which I haven’t succeeded in yet), switchbacks (on muddy tracks), turning, rolling, pump track with berms.

Happy participants. That’s me, 5th from left. Nag lakas-loob sumali sa advanced group.


Michael, new acquaintance, noob. Noob nga ba talaga?

Dex practicing downhilling. On his first time with a mountain bike, and a rented one.

My 2nd time on the downhill (70 degree angle). Nervous, hoping I don’t fall off to the side like on my first attempt.

Yehey! Thanks to Bans, Tena, Arjuna and Jay for coaching us.

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MIDI vs. Live Recording: An Orchestration Exercise

Here is an arrangement and orchestration I did around seven months ago, of Vanessa Paradis’s Divine Idylle. The original recording was arranged in a 60’s-inspired style. For this project, we made new versions of her songs for the orchestra, which were really different from the original arrangements. (to listen to the original recording of Divine Idylle, view her music video in Youtube.)

MIDI VS. LIVE arrangement

Now, here are the two “realizations” of the arrangement I did for this song:

The first one is a MIDI version. The bulk of the samples are from the Vienna Symphonic Library, with a few Kirk Hunter Strings and some East West instruments. It doesn’t have vocals yet here... Also, I posted my draft mix, in order to illustrate some stuff that could be improved on (which I will go into detail later). Listen to this one first.

Divine Idylle MIDI version ©Carmel House Studios, 2009

(Pardon the copy-protect thingy, I had to insert annoying “reminders” throughout the mp3 clips so as to discourage unauthorized use)

The second one is a live version, recorded by FILharmoniKA at Carmel House Studios. I sang a demo vocal in it, in French. (I did my best, ok?)

Divine Idylle LIVE version ©Carmel House Studios, 2009

To be able to compare the two, side by side in your own DAW or sequencer: Set the tempo to 90 BPM, create an audio track for each mp3, then start them at bar 1. Just mute or solo one track if you’re listening to the other.


Now let’s look at how the MIDI version could’ve been improved on, based what we’ve heard from the live orchestra version. (Or if there are parts of the MIDI orchestration which I prefer over my live orchestration)

1. BAR 2 onwards: MIDI version has too much reverb on the snare drum
- this was pointed out to me in one of the orchestration forums I frequent.

2. BAR 2-10: I spent a lot of hours automating the MIDI string tracks in order to have them imitate the sound envelope of a large string section’s attack and decay (on slow-moving lines), and I thought I was able to make a convincing sound, till I heard the live version. I think strings are one of the most difficult instruments to realize in MIDI! Because even when you’ve got the sound envelope right, there are a vast number of other factors to consider: String players usually don’t perform their vibratos at the same time, and at the exact same speed, and there is some sort of “sympathetic vibration” going on.. their overall sound is just massive and lush.

A technique that a mentor of mine shared with me, which helps a lot in MIDI orchestration is this: DON’T quantize your arrangements, as live players don’t play at the exact same millisecond anyway.

3. BAR 2-5: MIDI version used an English Horn.. but an English Horn was not available during the live session, so I had a Clarinet substitute for the English Horn lines. I think it worked nicely, though.

4. BAR 6: The attack of the Trumpet Ensemble on the MIDI version could’ve been less biting.. the live trumpet players were able to adjust to the mellow treatment of the strings on that particular line.

5. BAR 9, live version: Wrong note on the brasses.. whoops!

6. BAR 23: Hmm, I don’t know whose sound I prefer over the other here, the MIDI trombone ensemble, or the live one (a matter of preference in mixing). I sometimes like that “brassy” sound to the trombones in that register (which I did in the MIDI), even in a ballad setting.

7. BAR 27: I revised some string lines for the live version here because in the MIDI version, they just seemed to “drift off”.

8. BAR 36: Again, something I find difficult with MIDI strings: attaining a soft and “round” sound. Too often, the string samples are too bright or too striking. For a soft passage, one has to play the samples softer, but the softer velocity layers in samples don’t have that intensity or life which live players bring to the session. I’m sure there are workarounds here (maybe use a small cello ensemble along with the viola part?). VSL already contains some of the “darker” string samples out there, but will still need a lot of tweaking to achieve a convincing mellow sound.

9. BAR 44-45: Okay, that MIDI oboe didn’t quite pass the test for “almost sounds live”. Notice how in the live oboe recording, there are small, almost unnoticeable “breaks” in the line, which occur during the player’s key-switching. In my effort to make my MIDI oboe sound legato, I forgot that small but important detail, thus making the MIDI oboe sound really MIDI, as if a keyboard was playing the notes (which is what we really want to avoid in MIDI orchestration). I wonder if using an Oboe Legato patch could’ve solved the problem?

10. BAR 46-49 Now here’s one part where I liked the MIDI strings, because they seemed to have life in them. But the line would’ve worked better if the string reverb was brought low, even if only in this part.

11. BAR 50-51 The woodwinds in the MIDI were too “up front” and too loud to be convincing.

12. BAR 52: Another instance where I prefer the mix of my brasses in the MIDI over the live one.. I would’ve liked the trumpets to “blare” a bit, especially in that register, but they were somehow drowned out in the live version. I wanted the brasses to be up front here because they were a “response” to the woodwinds in bars 50-51. Again, this is a matter of preference rather than a textbook rule.

13. BAR 55: In the MIDI version, you could still hear the woodwind lines, but notice how they were drowned out in the live version (or to put it better, they “blended” well with the other orchestra instruments that they doubled in unison). As an arranger, I would’ve liked the woodwind lines to have been heard, but in reality, they would’ve really been smothered by the rest of the orchestra in that register, also because of the dynamic level of that part of the piece. I’d admit that this is where my weakness in mixing lies.. in MIDI, I sometimes make the mistake of highlighting a certain passage in order to make it come out, even if by “live orchestration standards,” the passage could not have floated over the rest of the orchestra. (Unless, of course, we are talking about a soloist, in which case the instrument will really have its own separate mic).

14. BAR 78: I forgot to put the crescendo mark on the brasses (which was there in my MIDI), so they just sort of drifted off in the live version. But I think the “drift off” worked better.

15. BAR 81-84: Hmm. It’s only now that I realized I forgot to put all my cymbal washes into the live version. He he! Too bad, it would’ve really added to the effect I’ve intended.

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There.. hope you liked this mini-analysis!


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