Anne-alog na, Anne-bilis pa!

anne curtis vinylTo be sure, Anne Curtis’ interest in vinyl records has been pretty well-documented over the years. She has numerous tweets singing praises to the superb sonic quality of analog recordings. Heima Store IG’d her visit to buy vinyl records. She has bought vinyl albums from Satchmi during one of the bazaars where this lone all-vinyl store at SM Megamall participated. Her working Rega P1 turntable at home was set up by no less than Heima Store founder Bong Rojales. In 2011, the Manila Bulletin wrote an engaging feature story celebrating her love of indie vinyl records. In the article “Anne Curtis’ Indie Moments”, she shares that indie albums are “what I collect when I go abroad. I buy the vinyl records of my favorite bands…I don’t anymore buy CDs, more of records na lang…ang bigat non sa maleta.” Manila Bulletin writer Rowena Joy A. Sanchez notes that “Anne already has three stacks worth of vinyl records.” (“Anne Curtis’ Indie Moments” by Rowena Joy A. Sanchez, Manila Bulletin, September 15, 2011.) In the September 2015 issue of Yes Magazine, editor Jo-ann Maglipon notes that: “she has a working turntable at home and a collection of vinyl records which she says sounds more crisp and more authentic.”

oct blog anne curtis runningSimilarly, her interest in running has been relatively consistent over the years. She threw in her support for World Vision in 2013 by partnering with Coach Rio Dela Cruz to raise funds for World Vision children beneficiaries. The now defunct Runners’ World Philippines featured her in its Jan-Mar 2014 issue. Fairly recently, in her current capacity as UNICEF Celebrity Advocate for Children, she teamed up with prominent race organizers led by Takbo.PH to organize the Heroes for Children Run which is happening on October 25, 2015. The run seeks to raise funds  to address the issue of under-nutrition which unfortunately still impacts no less than 3.4 million Filipino children. To increase public awareness about this pressing social issue, she will attempt her first 21K race at the said event.

Unicef Heroes for Children - A3 LayeredAt first glance, Anne Curtis’ interest in vinyl records and her passion for running may appear to be worlds apart, to say the least. But if you look closer, you might be surprised to discover no less than 10 things that neatly tie in her interest in vinyl records to her zest for running.  It is interesting to note that they do not necessarily apply to her alone.

Skeptical? Read on…

Longevity

Both vinyl record collecting and running exemplify the meaning of longevity. That’s because both have somehow  captured the Filipinos’ imagination in varying degrees over the years.

Consider, the November Hi-Fi Show which is the biggest annual event celebrating vinyl record collecting and the whole slew of hardware on which to play them is now on its 12th year. In a 2014 article which appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, its founder Tonyboy de Leon “remarks with pride that the Hi-Fi Show is the only event of its kind in Manila that can truly count on a loyal following. In fact, visitor size has grown through the years, thanks to critical support provided by audio-visual exhibitors, both local and foreign. The latest one featured 55 exhibitors and De Leon’s biggest coup yet, Michael Fremer (internationally renowned hobbyist and advocate) in Manila.” (“Hobbyists Behind Vinyl Resurgence in the Country by Von Katindoy, Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 5, 2014.)

nov hi fi show

The biggest and longest running marathon event in the country pioneered by Milo Philippines in 1976 is now on its 39th year. Over 200,000 runners join this event across 18 cities and provinces culminating with the national Milo marathon championships towards the end of the year. Given the increasing number of running enthusiasts it has attracted over the years, it should come as no surprise why there are more running events happening monthly compared to the first year Milo first organized a marathon.

Numbers-Driven

Both vinyl records and running ground themselves in definitive numbers to ensure optimal experience.

There is the 33 1/3 revolutions per minute (rpm) in the case of vinyl records. Anything faster or slower will get in the way of truly appreciating and enjoying the warmth, breadth and depth of long-playing vinyl records. Peter Goldmark is credited for inventing the LP in 1948 “when he slowed down the record from the then conventional 78 rpm to 33 1/3 rpm. By doing so, he effectively lengthened the groove and decreased the width.” (National Inventors Hall of Fame)

Corresponding to this is the highly recommended 170 to 180 strides per minute which is specified as the right cadence in running. Anything faster or slower is an invitation to unnecessary injuries. It is interesting to note that the metronome which is traditionally used by classical musicians to perfect their rendition has become an indispensable tool in the sport of running. Indeed, the metronome figures prominently in the ChiRunning App developed by founder Danny Dreyer to help runners observe the 170 to 180 stride per minute cadence.

Alone Time

Both vinyl record listening and running have come to be regarded as perfect acts of solitude or if you will, “alone time.”

To really appreciate your records, one goes through what Robert Crespo of Crossover 105.1 calls the solitary ritual of vinyl listening. Crespo “vividly remembers a surreal experience dining with the jazz pianist great David Benoit. Towards the end of the dinner, Crespo brought out his prized sealed copy of “Urban Daydreams” to ask Benoit to sign it. Instead of signing the record right away, the jazz pianist took his time gazing at the album cover before perusing the details on the back. Then,  like a seasoned vinyl collector, he used his thumbnail to unseal the record. Before he pulled out the record, he took a long, slow whiff of the vinyl with his eyes closed, the way a wine connoisseur does before sampling the wine.” (“Back in Black” by Von Katindoy, Sunday Inquirer Magazine, December 13, 2013.)

david benoit

There is a parallel ritual of solitude in running that runners relish. It starts with getting up in the wee hours of the morning, donning your running gear, warming up before heading off to the starting line, running off gently at first and then building into a comfortable pace, sustaining that pace and eventually moving on to a sprint pace as you near the finish line. True, in between these activities you get to say hi and hello maybe even compare notes with other runners but throughout the entire running experience, one experiences an almost undisturbed shot at solitude as you focus on completing the race.

Social Event

For all the solitude offered by these two activities, both also promote socialization.

This is because the most popular convention for enjoying vinyl records is not through the use of the headphone but rather by way of the two-speaker set-up. By seating yourself in the so-called “sweet spot” which is approximately 6 feet away from your turntable flanked by the standard 2-speaker set up, you get to fully enjoy a vinyl recording to the fullest – a setting that does not exactly discourage family members and friends from joining you to partake in the analog sonic experience. Indeed, many of those I interviewed in my 2013 Inquirer article on the vinyl resurgence in the country shared that this was exactly how they first discovered analog music.

The same might as well be said of running. Notwithstanding the solitude it provides the runner, its social aspect is beyond doubt. Runners tend to form tightly-knit networks with fellow runners to improve their game. Family and friends of runners inevitably find themselves drawn to the sport to cheer on a loved one or a close friend. The best illustration of the preceding is The Bull Runner Dream Marathon founded by Jaymie Pizarro with Jim Lafferty where family members and friends are highly encouraged to provide moral support to first-time marathoners. Finally, without the teams and organizations that organize running races, there is no way runners could enjoy the kind of solitude that the sport facilitates.

dream marathon

Higher Ground

There is also such a thing as a higher ground in both vinyl record collecting and running.

In the case of vinyl collecting, this comes in the form of according the attention and respect deserved by the musicians and the music that they created as recorded in the vinyl format. This has been the perennial complaint of career musicians who have spent decades to perfect their craft only for their music – to which they’ve given their lives – to be treated as background or worse, totally ignored. This is why some musicians refuse to play in weddings and social functions. They would rather play in concerts and recitals where full attention to their music and their playing is guaranteed.

In the case of running, the higher ground is obvious in the numerous causes that most if not all races support either through increased public awareness or  by way of raising funds. To name a few, The Bull Runner Dream Marathon has been a generous and loyal supporter of The Hero Foundation. The Condura Skyway Marathon chooses a specific charity to support for each year that it is held. The New York City Marathon and the Chicago Marathon both provide runners with the opportunity to raise funds for their favorite charity.

hero foundation

Addicting

In the book “Vinyl Junkies,” author Brett Milano documents how difficult and challenging it is for vinyl collectors to stop the habit, so to speak, once you are hooked by the dark side – black being the traditional color of vinyl records. “Love for the music, love for the artifact, the thrill of the chase: these are the three elements that turn a garden-variety music lover into a vinyl junkie. Like many collectors, Monoman is on an eternal mission, There’s always something out there that he hasn’t yet got.” (“Vinyl Junkies” by Brett Milano, p 15.) No other film captures the never-ending wanderlust of vinyl collectors than the movie “High Fidelity,” a Nick Hornby novel which became a cult movie classic.

vinyl junkies

Runners who embrace the sport often share how they feel incomplete even unfulfilled if they can’t race at least once or twice a month on top of their regular routine of thrice a week practice runs. More importantly, for most runners, there is no such thing as running enough races. The more you race, the more you look forward to more races. There is no such thing as a finish line. As some runners would put it, “it can be quite addicting.” 

Round and Round

Yet another fascinating similarity of these two seemingly unrelated passions is the fact that both vinyl listening and running intrinsically involve circular movements.

The recording that is etched on the grooves of vinyl albums can only be read by the stylus through the so called rpm or revolutions per minute. 33 1/3 is the standard specification for long playing albums while 45 is the prerequisite for singles.

In running, the optimal movement of the runners’ legs is through a circular motion as they swing rearward. This is why ChiRunning founder Danny Dreyer recommends that one visualize one’s legs as wheels that are moving in motion as one runs. The alternative to this is the pendulum movement of one’s  legs which is an invitation to injury, running inefficiency and unnecessary exhaustion.

No Short Cuts

Both vinyl listening and running literally take you from Point A to Point B.  No short cuts allowed.

In vinyl listening, unlike in the case of enjoying CDs, downloaded and streamed music, you experience the recording in linear fashion and  as it was originally visualized by the artists and the producer/s of the album. That is to say, you move from track 1 of Side A and progressively listen to the succeeding tracks until you reach the final track of Side B. Hence, the objection of some vinyl purists to compiling the greatest hits of their favorite artists because you eventually lose out on the painstaking thought that went into how the tracks are sequenced say in “Let It Be” by The Beatles or “UltraElectroMagnetic Pop” by the Eraserheads.

The-Beatles-Let-It-Be

The same goes for running. Skipping or jumping from one point to another is simply a no-no unless you want to achieve a DNF (Did Not Finish) status at the end of the race. You always begin your run from a definitive starting point and target to end at a specific finish line. In between, like a consummate musician, a runner worth his/her salt tries his/her best to figure out what strategy to use within the first 21K and the next 21K. Put bluntly, you don’t just recklessly run off at gun start. You pace yourself well at each critical segment so you finish strong.

Tangible

Both vinyl collecting and running endear themselves to those who pursue them through their tangible rewards.

For the record collector, this easily translates to the experience of marveling at and relishing the album art of records, reading the liner notes and carefully holding the physical vinyl record so as not to smudge it. “Says broadcast journalist Jay Taruc: “Vinyl, for me, has better packaging. That 12” x 12” album sleeve with the cover art, pictures, graphics, information sheet-liner notes, and other physical and visual element is a very big plus… that allows you to experience and physically hold the end product of an artist or a band. (And you marvel at) the creative process they go through to actually produce it. The vinyl record somehow represents all that.” (“Back in Black” by Von Katindoy, Sunday Inquirer Magazine, December 13, 2013)

For the runner nothing compares to the unique high that finisher medals and race bibs provide post- race. In the critically-acclaimed documentary “The Spirit of the Marathon” a running couple share how they consistently documented their races by personally curating their collection of race bibs and medals. One of the most sought-after products of Takbo.PH is their metal medal hanger with the signage that reads: “Keep On Running.” In one of her recent blogs,  Coach Noelle De Guzman a.k.a. Kikay Runner shared how several enterprising running enthusiasts came up with quilts made of finisher shirts and vinyl medal hangers with customized taglines.

Metaphysical

Both vinyl listening and running take you to metaphysical territories.

In the Oscar-winning movie, “Almost Famous,” shortly before writer-director Cameron Crowe’s sister leaves their home to live with her boyfriend, she conspiratorially tells Crowe to check out the vinyls under her bed. She then enjoins her younger brother to listen to The Who’s “Tommy” with candles as lighting so he can see his entire future while enjoying the sonic experience. Critically listening to vinyl records, like reading, can take you to frontiers you never knew existed with no need to ingest alcohol or drugs. No wonder, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote that “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

almost famous

In the classic book “Running and Being,” Dr. George Sheehan talks about running in the same vein. To make his case for the metaphysical rewards that running provides, he enlists the help of literary and philosophical giants like Henry David Thoreau, Gabriel Marcel, Soren Kierkegaard and G.K. Chesterton. When one runs, Sheehan writes, one does not only do so to de-stress. One runs because your very authenticity as a human being is at stake. To run is to tell the corporate world that you are more than your position and the salary you draw twice a month.

So, in the event that you happen to find yourself running next to Anne Curtis on October 25 during her first 21K race, you now have not 1, not 2 but 10 prospective talking points to throw at her instead of simply contenting yourself with an Instagram selfie or a simple hi and hello. That, of course, is if you can keep up with her running pace.

As if to confer an element of legitimacy to my rambling attempt at a reflective juxtaposition, both running and vinyl listening will be celebrated in grand fashion towards the last 2 months of the year.

The 12th November Hi-Fi Show will take place on November 14-15, 2015 in Citadines, Salcedo Village, Makati City.

The 39th Milo National Grand Finals will happen on December 6, 2015 in Angeles City, Pampanga.

milo marathon

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To See Ourselves as Others See Us

Did you know that a louse (i.e., “kuto” in Filipino) once evoked a poetic insight? In 1785 the English poet Robert Burns chanced upon a louse on an otherwise fine-looking lady’s bonnet prompting him to write: “To see ourselves as others see us, it would from many a blunder free us.”

robert burnsMore than 200 years after it was written, Burns’ insight continues to resonate in the age of Spotify and YouTube albeit for an entirely different set of reasons. Thanks to the internet, virtually anything could be learned by anyone – from playing the guitar to cooking your favorite comfort dish, from mastering a language to mounting a grassroots political campaign. Notwithstanding the numerous things one can learn through the internet, it has its limitations. You may spend the requisite 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell popularized to master a craft yet still realize that your skill level is not at par with where you’d like to take it. You can pore over the various internet references for understanding the different words that comprise a language yet still feel frustrated about your seeming lack of progress. The missing ingredient? Critique in the form of feedback for us “to see ourselves as others see us.”

malcolm gladwellThat is precisely why training programs that are deemed most effective are those which employ feedback to sharpen the skill level of the learner. The same might as well apply to runners who aspire to improve their game. You can do all the strength training exercises until you pass out of sheer exhaustion. You can run all the LSD and tempo runs that your body can muster. But without feedback, you deprive yourself of learning more about what you’re doing right and what you could improve on. One powerful instrument of feedback is video analysis. Competitive basketball teams use it. Aerobatic teams leverage on it. Elite units of the armed forces can’t do without it. Runners who aspire to continuously improve would do well to use this technology particularly in improving their form.

What attitude is to aptitude, form is to speed. More to the point, form is fundamental. Thus, the insistent admonition of many coaches to work on one’s form first. Then, you can progressively work on your speed next. Your form, after all, influences your speed or lack of it. Most importantly, form, is ultimately about efficiency which is a requirement of endurance. And endurance is what long-distance running is all about.

And so compelled by this insight and disturbed by a string of running injuries (i.e., most of which have since healed) which came in the heels (pun intended) of my aspiration to improve at the sport, I decided to invest in a form analysis session after accidentally discovering the availability of such a service. Thanks to certified ChiRunning instructor and The Dream Marathon Head Coach Lit Onrubia and his company called Forward Lean Running, I uncovered a number of valuable take-aways which I have no doubt will improve my running without risking even more serious injuries. These, incidentally, are the two important customer value propositions of ChiRunning.

coach lit onrubia

Chi Running is “a revolutionary form of moving that blends the subtle inner focuses of T’ai Chi with running.” It was developed by Danny Dreyer based on “his study of T’ai Chi with Master Zhu Xilin and internationally renowned Master George Xu, and his 35 years of experience, running, racing ultra marathons and coaching people in intelligent movement.”

oct blog chi running bookHere are just 5 of the numerous benefits that running enthusiasts could look forward to if and when they decide to give form analysis a try.

Pattern

The first thing that impressed me about Forward Lean Running’s form analysis is the premium that it assigns to the diagnostic approach. As phenomenologists would put it, “first you describe, then you prescribe.” To find out what I’m doing right and what I could improve on, my running form was recorded at various speeds – from the warm-up pace to the comfortable race pace, from the comfortable race pace to the sprint race pace. In addition, various vantage points were used for recording upper body and lower body movements across the various paces. In the process, an overall pattern of my running form was established. This effectively served as the baseline of the form analysis.

oct blog forward lean runningStrength Finding

Yet another thing that made me appreciate form analysis is its conscious effort to engage in strength finding instead of dwelling on errors and their attendant correction right away. More specifically, the form analysis session zeroed in on the various form focuses that I got right. Form focus are two intrinsically-related terms that Dreyer uses to describe the bite-size exercise that works on a specific body part that contributes to achieving the Chi Running form. This conscious effort to identify and affirm your strengths as a runner naturally builds a sense of confidence and fulfillment. When I was told, for instance, that I was actually observing the forward lean form as I was running, I was buoyed by the affirmation to all the more continue to seek to improve. I must have done something right along the way. The feeling is no different from the positive vibe that inescapably wraps you when you hear or read “Kaya Mo Yan” – the current Milo Marathon tag line – while you’re in a race.

Development Opportunities

From the very beginning, it was the possibility of chancing upon my areas for improvement that made me invest in form analysis. I’m glad that I was not disappointed. By uncovering the blind spots and red flags in my form and technique, it allowed me to set my sights on specific, measurable and achievable gaps that I could improve. Fortunately, most of my blind spots require mostly small tweakings here and there. Yet however small these tweakings may appear to be, their impact and effect on one’s efficiency are exponential once they are applied in actual runs. Cases in point are the corrections I was advised to work on with regard to the consistency of my forward lean (i.e., that I should maintain it especially when speeding up), the circular and rearward movement of my legs (i.e., that I should lift my right leg more) and my cadence (i.e., that I should constantly check if I’m over-striding by rolling my eyes downward.)

Learning Applied

An unexpected plus that came my way after what I thought was the completion of the analysis is the quick-win application of insights that apply to my form and technique. Instead of being sent off to work on my development opportunities, Coach Lit actually directed me right there and then to integrate the necessary high-value adjustments to my form while I was actually running. My cadence involved one such adjustment. Months back, I experimented with various SPM (i.e., strides per minute) permutations on a running track. Based on my trial and error attempts, I thought that I would have to settle for 170 strides per minute which was at the extreme lower end of Dreyer’s recommended SPM. In the course of the form analysis, I discovered that I could comfortably do 175 or even 180 strides per minute by simply adjusting my stride length and synching it with the metronome. It was the adjustment to my stride length that I found most helpful. It really is one thing to read about things. It’s altogether a different matter when you apply what you read in real life.

Hope

Lastly, I left the session with a sense of hope and optimism that despite the fact that I only discovered ChiRunning after years of winging it with grit and tenacity, there is no way to go but forward now that I know what I know. This time around hopefully I could do so with minimal or even better, zero injuries. In the song “Betamax” popularized by the Pinoy band Sandwich, lead singer Raymund Marasigan enjoins the listener to keep moving forward: “Padayon! Ipagpatuloy ang agos!” Notwithstanding the original context of the song, its core message of forging on  augurs well with how Dreyer envisions ChiRunning: “In ChiRunning, basic principles of T’ai Chi are employed to optimize the flow of energy in your body to reduce the use of force for moving forward, and thereby reduce the risk of injury.” (ChiMarathon by Danny Dreyer, p 13)

 sandwich 2