Thursday, November 25, 2021

Brooks Launch 8 : Unboxing and Review


My first Brooks was a Cascadia 5. It was my absolute go to shoe for trails and it never failed me for many adventure races. I then got myself a Ghost 3, and then a Ghost 5, of which both of them lasted me close to a 1000km ride before I retire them for good. Infact, the Ghost 5 insole, is still in service in one of my casual loafers - it is that comfortable as a liner. My last Brooks was the Pure-series - the PureGrit and PureDrift. Both of these were back in 2012. I've not owned any Brooks after that due to collaboration with another shoe brand. This lasted until 2016, and for the past 5-years, I have been using whichever shoes I have from the collaboration, buying a handful, and wearing them to literal death. My last pair had holes on the sole and what saved me was the insole of the shoe against my barefoot.

So, when Brooks Malaysia offered me a pair of their latest - and by mean of that, I get to choose which pair I wanted, I was excited of this potential collaboration. Thanks to Sports Paragon, which had their official opening at Tropicana Garden Mall in Kota Damansara, i feasted my eyes to what has changed in the space of Brooks running shoes since 2012. Ghost is now at version 14. Adrenaline and Glycerin now looked more contemporary. Launch was re-introduced and a new line of super-light racers known as Hyperion (Tempo and Elite 2) is giving some faster kicks a run for their money.

Max Cushioning Glycerin 19 in all black for those that want basic

Glycerin 19 Go-To-Support (GTS) - for those that needed extra support

Hyperion Tempo - Fast, but not as Fast as Elite 2

As my training eats up mileage fast - averaging about 200km/month, which meant if the rules of thumb to change a pair of trainer between 300-500miles or in metric - 480km to 800km, I would need a new pair every 3-4 months. And this is consistent as I've clocked in the past 12 months, to date, close to 2,600km - equivalent to 3 pairs of shoes (of which the three pairs I have been using in the past 18months is way beyond their time to be replaced). 

Without a collaboration (or sponsorship as the old terms refers), It would had been an expensive affair just to keep training. So, I am very grateful for Paragon Vest, the distributor of Brooks to offer me a pair. Thank you for this!


So, the next question was - which one I will go with. Obviously you all know I've taken the Launch 8 based on the title of this blog entry. How did I arrived at that? Brooks has a decision tree to help along! Initially, I was contemplating between getting the more cushioned mileage eater - Adrenaline GTS 21. Latest of the latest. I was considering the Hyperion Tempo as well, because I believe I am at the stage I can do justice to a pair of fast shoe being the driver, and not just the passenger. Then I was thinking that the Adrenaline, being heavier and more cushioned, will not help with my strides which has shorter ground contact time - more cushioned equals to more landing time. The Hyperion became very attractive, but I am not sure how much mileage I can put in them and I hate to be wonder if I need a change in 2-months time. If only I could have the privilege to have both mileage (for easy days) and speed (for fast days).

Hence the Launch 8 came in very nicely right in the middle with balance of mileage and speed.

"Brooks Launch 8 is touted as a lightweight speed trainer, with lighter cushioning that does not sacrifice softness and durability"

Unboxing

Such a long introduction to get to this isn't it? Thank you for staying put and continue to read. The Launch 8 is known as a lightweight speed trainer, with lighter cushioning that provide softness and durability. I tried them on and i felt taller but at the same time, grounded. Decided on size US11 in D-width. I always thought I needed an E. Perhaps the sizing is more generous that some of the other brands I have been using in the past 5 years. For the record, i needed a US12 for Adidas Supernova as it runs tight at the toebox, and for Nike, it was a mix of 11 and 12, depending on the model and what is on sale (for less than RM100). It is nice to be a size 11 again. 


Official weight as per Brooks for a US9 male sizing is 249grams and my pair of US11 runs into just 17grams heavier at 266grams. Even at this weight, it is already the lightest shoes I had put on my feet in the past 3 years. 
Light!

Brooks continue with the BioMoGo foams which will break down faster in anaerobic condition in landfill. While the DNA in the Launch8 essential meant there is presence of the cushioning gel in the midsole. This DNA gel is adaptive to the force applied. A higher force will make it firmer. This meant the cushioning is able to adapt to be firmer for a heavier user, and yet become more responsive when the pace picks up. 

DNA in Launch8

There are three other version of DNA available in other models. Namely the DNA AMP, DNA Loft and DNA Flash. I do not have any experiences in any of them, but would love to try them particularly the AMP and Flash where there are nitrogen injected into the foam that offers snappy fast response. The Loft offers the plushest ride with performance included. So, Launch8 has the most basic of the DNA.
Blown rubber (softer) on forefoot area.

Carbon black runner on heel to mid area 

It is good to note that Launch8, despite the fast-labelled shoe comes with full outsole that covers from the front to the back. The heel is from harder carbon black material, while the front is from blown rubber which gives more cushioning despite the thinner stack. Personally, it has no bearing for me as most of my shoes has always been "minimalist". Which having said that, the Launch8 is a 10mm drop shoes with a 26-16 (Heel-Toe) and it makes me feel tall wearing it. 
Model name on the foam

Good to note as well, that the liner is made from the same EVA foam and it adds extra plushness to the overall ride. You may observe that the heel cup is turned upwards, which then aid in securing/locking the heel in position and it is already a promising feature that the heel will be secured. Heel slip is when you run and the back portion sort of slides up and down, causing unnecessary friction point and blisters.

Continuing on, the tongue is not gusseted or in layman term, secured at all sides. It is a floater. Some see this as minus point, some is ok with it. Pros of a gusseted tongue is that it doesn't move and it prevent any possible grit or small stones from entering the shoe from the top of your feet (the heel/ankle area not withstanding). 

Launch V8. A different way to denote the model iteration


The laces are flat, and it doesn't come with an spare lace of a different color. Black on Black, flat laces is basic. It works. And I am not sure if I want to swap them for some colorful laces, to play along with the rest of the shoe in what Brooks called the "Victory" collection. Good to note is that the Heel Lock lace hole is reinforced and in a better position than many shoes i have noticed.
new upper air mesh claims better ventilation. Take note of the Heel Lock hole directly below the first/top hole.

The upper mesh is a new air mesh that Brooks claim to offer better ventilation as the internal is also missing any other material that they mention as "booties" or a smoother inner. This basically allow for the skin to be closer to the air mesh, for cooler ride. 

A look inside the shoe with liner removed. This is against sunlight as I was drying my shoe after a rainy run. 

Take note of the shoe mesh in the photo above. It shows pretty good aeration and breathable mesh. Also note the far end where the toe is with reinforced liner that basically help to keep shape and provide a longer wear-tear profile. Those areas are the high-wear area (ever had a shoe with torn toe section due to abrasion?) Also noticed the not gusseted tongue from the inner view.

As I run sockless, this is pretty good feature for me. However, most of my shoes I've worn in the past 10 years has been on sockless anyway. This feature is least of my priority. Would be more interested to know how fast it will dry off with lighter mesh.

A very well designed heel collar

One of the nice feature and well designed is the heel collar (closest to the Achilles). It allow an easy slip of your feet into the shoe. If you swap the laces with a quick lace or elastic lace, you may not even need to loosen the elastic to slide your feet in - almost a perfect fit all the time with minimal adjustment. While I am no podium winner in triathlon races, this is very much appreciated in the Bike-Run transition where you don't need to worry too much about wet feet trying to get into the running shoe, and having to re-secure when you are already tired. it saves seconds, if not minutes.
The Launch8 was super pliable and promises to move with your feet

The last feature i tested before going for the run was how flexible and pliable the show is. It took very little effort to press the shoe in the position i showed above. I have ran in flexible shoes, and I've ran in flexible shoes. This remind me of the Brooks PureDrift and the Skechers GoBionic.
Promotional material next to Launch8 in the Flagship store

First Feel 
The lacing was good and it secured my feet very nicely. I have normal arch and a mid-to-heel over pronation. Feeling the foam under my feet, i can feel the plushness vs one of the shoe I was using even when new. It was a very new (rekindled) experience. Something I knew I've missed over the 3-years of wearing "shoes on clearance". 
Laced. Ready.
(that small little footpod is Stryd a power meter for running, doesn't come with Launch8)

The Medium width (D) felt great on my feet. My toes can splay out comfortably without having the  small toes pressing out the side. We all know how some sneakers looked great until you wear them as the outline of your toes presses out the mesh material, which also denotes potential friction points for longer runs.
feet stayed within the shoe. My toes were splayed open in this shot

Another view from the side on the shoe integrity with my feet in

...and First Run
I took the Launch8 for an easy paced run with 6 sets of stride repeat. The Launch8 felt lively. There were bounce in the steps that were more than my usual shoes, including one with more modern material/foam that promises to boost your steps. The run allowed me to benchmark a similar run using another shoe and to compare very crudely if the bounce/feel is real. This is the first impression. Comparing Run 319(old shoe) vs Run 334 (Launch8)
from data point, can you see the differences?
Both runs are in the same direction, same loop. Elevation gain per loop is similar. Only differences is that the Run 334 were in the evening where I spend the earlier part of day at hospital and was tired (but very eager to test the shoe), and the Run 319 was my usual lunch time hustle. 
The run with Launch8 showed:
  1. Faster average pace at 4:19 vs 4:52. This differences is significant despite delta of 8bpm.
  2. Lower energy/power for the 30s strides which was below my Critical Power (CP) of 311W, vs the Run 319, which was above my CP. Some evidence of power/watt savings on Launch8.
  3. Pace during the 30s strides are much faster vs the CP, which meant some evidence of free speed on Launch8.
Makes you go fast
Testing to date
*caveat - I have no experience running in more technologically advanced shoe (read: Carbon plated, breakthrough foams) and these finding/response below is based on my runs comparing against 4 pairs of trainers with basic features and EVA foams.😊

To date (Nov 25th), I've logged in 11 runs (a run a day), covering about 116km. Runs consist of 1 interval repeat, 3 easy with strides, 6 easy and 1 full marathon on Launch8. I've covered a minimum of 5km to a maximum of FM, ranging from 25minutes to 4:50. Two of the runs were in rain, completely drenched, 3 of the runs were before 10am, 1 after 5pm, and the remaining 7 is at lunch. I dare to claim that I've tested the Launch8 pretty extensively across all environmental elements, different required pace and power, wide range of distance and extended duration. 

Pros
  • light and flexible. The fact that it is lighter than my other trainers gave it impression it is responsive.
  • You feel grounded, yet you know the shoe will provide adequate cushioning with the DNA midsole.
  • Fit is nice. Just need to find the sweet spot with the lacing pressure
  • No blisters despite running sockless, including during the FM
  • No heel slips despite all drenched in rain and sweat
Cons
  • Not wet weather grip friendly. Two experiences in rain showed a lot of slips even on tar/asphalt road. It impacted power transfer slightly due to split second grip-slips.
Not-Really-A-Con-But-It-Is-Just-Me
  • Dries fairly slowly at the heel collar part, front air mesh dries fast. A challenge for me to get them to dry before my next day run after a wet (rain) run. 
  • ONLY during my FM run, as I run sockless, road sand and small stones gets in fairly easily around the heel collar. While i did not get any blisters from the shoe running sockless, i get abrasion chaffing due to sand in shoe. Note to self - socks if running beyond 3-hours on Launch8.
Run Happy during the FM in conjunction with KLSCM 2021

Outsole wear after 116km or 70miles is not significant. While the softer blown rubber front showed some sign of wear, the heel with carbon black showed almost none. The series of photos below will show you how my wear pattern on a pair of 1.5K km shoes vs Launch8. 

First my left foot. It has a higher tendency to strike Heel first before it lands midfoot. I think i got lazier left foot.
Can you see why I need new shoes?

Little to no wear on the forefoot

almost no wear to the heel

Toe off slightly more wear

Next my right foot. It has more midfoot and forefoot wear vs the heel. I think because it is the more dominant/stronger leg.
Right foot better wear pattern

consistently little to no wear on the forefoot

a bit more wear on the outer forefoot

No wear at the heel

The Launch8 looked promising that it will have a lifespan of no less than 1,000km or about 5-months of wear for me. The significantly thicker outsole before the foams may provide the mileage assurance. As seen in the orange shoe above, I have completely wear off the whole outsole, and ate into the foam. I will update here as the mileage continue to rakes in. For now, this will be the only pair I will put through the paces.


#RunHappy

This pair of Brooks Launch8 is courtesy of Brooks Malaysia and Sports Paragon. Retail price of this is MYR490, which put it very nicely in the mid-range of daily trainers that is lightweight and offer performance enhancement vs regular heavier trainers. Be reminded that there is no carbon plate in this pair, and user should not compare this against performance shoes specifically designed for speed. Suffice to say, Launch8 sits nicely between your daily easy trainer and your go-to speed shoe on rotation. If you only have one choice and contemplate between cushion and performance, this could be a good start!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Stryd Tips: 3 Things You Can Do To Enhance Your Experience

41 days of using Stryd. I have been curious in the first 30 days and has explored all functions on the Powercentre App, online browser and device. Today, I will share 3 things that I've explored that has enhanced my user experiences and it may be new to you as a user like me. If you missed the Unboxing and Setup, you can read it here.

Tips 1: You can reschedule your workout plan

We are all busy with our live and has different priorities. Some unplanned races or just because you felt like to delay or bring forward some section of the planned running. This happened to me as I needed to run a longer distance last week to clock in a Virtual Race (Ironman Triathlon), which I swapped with a run from the next workout. Here is how you can do it.

On your Powercentre App on phone (it's easier to do it from phone), scroll to the dates you want to reschedule. In my case, I want to swap the Saturday Oct 23 Day 5 Easy with Sunday Oct 24 Day 6 Long Run. Select the workout you want to reschedule. In my case, Day 6. 


Next, click on the three dots and you see a whole list of options. You can see the Reschedule option. Click on it. (photo showed Day 5, but I actually did on Day 6, no differences if you choose to do on either one, just do not delete them)

It will bring you to the Calendar. You see that I did this (highlighted) on October 22. I choose to move Day 6 (Oct 24) To October 23.

Once you managed to do it, the rescheduled workout will show up in the day you choose. In this case, Oct 23. the Day 5 (original) still stays there, and next you need to repeat the process to move it to your next favored date. In my case, i swapped both days.

Once successfully repeating it on both, you get your new Schedule. You can of course rename the workout by repeating the three-dots>edit

Tips 2: You can change your training duration and/or distance (and many other things)

As my intent of swapping these two runs was so I could run a 10km on Saturday Oct 23. However, the default workout stated a 40mins long run (long by a 5km plan standard). You can change the distance by clicking on the three-dots and choose edit. You will come to this page, and scroll down to find another "edit" option.

You will get another sub-menu/options where you can further customise your workout. In my case, maintaining to the intend and purpose - to change the distance to 10km. Click on the Distance (8.14km, auto calculated based on Stryd algorithm)
Clicking on Distance will show you these option. Distance and Duration. Select Distance and adjust to the distance you need/want. This includes the units of measurement. I keep to Metric (thank you), and as I am not running on track, choosing KM is correct (aka choose meter or m if you are running around a 400m track)
You can ignore or leave the duration untouched, and press save.
The final edit will show the Day 5: Long Run to be 10km. Note that I've not change the Day 5:Easy (original) to Day 6: Easy. Yes, some work to be done, but this is also part of the experience of using a new device to learn and master the function and capabilities.

Then you go to your Device, in this case my Fenix 6 ProSolar, and sync it on the Stryd App. My Day 5: Long Run will show up, and the distance is marked as 10.00

Yes, there are some bugs on the user interface of the distance, as it's noted as "duration". It has no impact on the outcome of the run workout.

Tips 3: You can make Stryd the (full) default Pace and Distance recorder, even in GPS mode.

Admit it, this is actually one of the reason you wanted a Stryd, right? So you can get accurate distance, pace from your run. I've been running with the Stryd having the reported distance and pace based from the Satellite my Garmin reports. It is accurate. Any inaccuracies is really due to other factors which we can't control (like heavy cloud, buildings, under the shade of roof or trees). So when Khairul Munir (one of my go to person for all things running) mentioned you can actually make Stryd the default Pace and Distance recorder, with or without GPS (without = indoor on treadmill), I had a light-bulb moment. How come I did not think of it???

Here is how. First, go to your device and scroll to your Sensor.

Then search for the Stryd unit. In this case, it is noted as FP-7071 (ANT+) and FP-Stryd (BLE). Typically on the device, it will link on ANT+ (at least for me, all the time). 
Next scroll down and you will find "Speed" and "Distance" in the option. Click on Speed

And you get three options - Off, Indoor and Always. By default, it is set to Indoor (aka indoor no GPS signals). Select ALWAYS.
Repeat it for the Distance, and for good luck, repeat the whole process for FP-Stryd as well!
As long as you set all to ALWAYS, the Stryd will then take over all distance and pace reporting to your device. Now, the curiousity in you will be asking - what is Cal. Factor. Well, it is the calibration factor when the unit leaves the factory. I suggest you do not do anything to this, as Stryd is already accurate out of the box. If you you choose to do it, the process to "recalibrate" Stryd is pretty complex and involve quite a process and access to a 400m certified track... Leave.It.Alone.

I hope the above 3-things help you enjoy your devices more. Stay tuned for more tips, as I become more familiar with the device and it's capabilities, it's shortcoming and even if this will really help you to improve. 

---
OK. Now we are done with the 3-things you can do, are you ready to go down the rabbit hole with me if the last tip (Always On) is worth your trouble?

Is there really a big differences???
If you ever wondered how this impacted your running distances pre-Stryd, wonder no more as I am here to help debunk any myth, if any. As I upload all my runs to Strava, and we all know Strava has the ability to "correct distance and elevation" based on map, I will demonstrate this on both pre-Stryd and post-Stryd, and post-Always-Stryd (aka set the Stryd to default the pace and distance lah). Also, bear in mind the distances and coverage below is in the same loop (where I stay) in the same running direction (counter clockwise), at noon (rain or shine). 

First, here is how you can access this Strava feature. It is free. At your activity page in Strava, click on the three-dots at the bottom, next to the Edit (pen/pencil) button. This also work on App, but I prefer on Desktop as I can also correct the elevation. 

You can see all the other options you can do on Strava Desktop magic Three-Dots button. When you click on the Correct Distance (or Elevation), you get a prompt that looked like this.

The overriding of the GPS distance from Strava I believe is based on the map elevation that Strava contains. So, it is also only as accurate (with correction to your path, in case of GPS drift) as what the base data the device report. So, rule of thumb... only do this if you believe your GPS drift can be corrected on Strava and it be meaningful for you. Keyword: meaningful. Do not worry if you decided it was a bad idea after pressing the Correct Distance (or elevation), you can revert. 

First, the pre-Stryd distance uncorrected (6.03), and corrected (6.11). The differences is 0.08/6.11 = 1.31%.


Next post-Stryd. Uncorrected 6.03 and corrected 6.07. The differences is 0.04/6.07 = 0.66%. Wow. Almost half of 1.3% pre-Stryd!


Lastly, today's run, uncorrected 5.0, corrected 5.04km. The differences is 0.04/5.04 = 0.79%. A mere 0.1% differences when compared. 

Of course the accurate comparison would be against a 6km total..so.... I took the 1.51 (uncorrected) distance i ran before the 5km, which was corrected to 1.52. So a total of 5.0+1.51 = 6.51 uncorrected to a 5.04+1.52 = 6.56. So, the differences is 0.05/6.56 = 0.76%. Still differences of 0.1% - highly acceptable.

In a quick conclusion, pre-Stryd and post-Stryd distance has differences, but is the 1.3% based on one data point. Very small and almost not significant especially when we are running outdoor with all the other factors that will impact it. I would not be worried about the elevation as well - as barometric pressure and accuracy differs from device to device. Unless the distance reported by the device/s and the elevation is significant in magnitude, I say just go and enjoy the run and cycle - life is too short to worry if you could PB a segment just because the distance is longer/shorter by 0.04km or by 4m as an amateur athlete or as a beginner.

Then, the differences post-Stryd and post-ALWAYS-Stryd is minimal and doesn't impact the overall outcome of your run. Obviously with more data points and distances, this will mean less of an important metric to be concerned about - and if you are really hard up about running the accurate distance down to the 0.01km, perhaps what we need is a metal measuring tape that is also certified to be accurate - that could actually be cheaper than having a Garmin and Stryd combined together. 😉