Nagano Marathon Race Report

A short a trip to Japan but what a trip it was as I caught the Sakura season and there was a marathon too! Read about the race here.

Gear Reviews

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Trans Nuang 2013

5 runners. 42km. 16 hours. Elevation gain 2,878 meters / 9,442 feet. All here.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014 Race Report

After a long long wait, I finally nailed it. Full story here...

 

Early Impressions: Brooks Pure Drift

 

Oct 2011 was definitely an exciting time for Brooks. It was when their PureProject series of running shoes were introduced to the market. Quantities and sizing were limited and to say that they were in great demand was an understatement. Prior to the Pure Series, the most minimally built shoes in the Brooks stable consisted of the Green Silence and the T6. The Pure Series was to change that and even so, a statement released by the company at that time suggested that those shoes were as minimal as it’ll get in Brooks’ books.

Things must’ve changed somewhat since a year ago as more embraced running shoes that are built with less layers and techno-babble. Be it to replace their footwear to get back to basics or to supplement and strengthen their feet muscles. I put myself more in the latter category and I’ve never ran stronger or better since. As the market towards “less is more” gained mainstream acceptance, Brooks has put out a shoe that I felt drifted away from their philosophy of just over a year ago. And so along with the refresh of the PureProject series, another new shoe was introduced, and that’s the appropriately named Pure Drift. With a very visible Nightlife yellow upper, the Drift is simply a stunning shoe, design-wise. While it shares the heritage of the earlier PureProject shoes, it still comes across as fresh and somehow manages to blend some elements of the now Green Silence (the lacing design) and the Connect (outsole and upper). Out of the box, the shoe has a heel to toe drop of 4mm but remove the insole and you’re in zero drop territory. A smart move that allows one to customize his or her ride. More of how that feels in awhile. I’ll keep the description of the shoe to the minimum. Suffice to say that the Drift inherits a number of the features of the PureProject i.e. BioMoGo DNA midsole, Ideal Heel and Nav Band. The tweaked areas include (as culled from the Brooks website):

  • A dual toe flex located at the three functional units of the foot, allowing for increased joint articulation and a more connected feel, engaging the runner’s natural balance.
  • A removable insole that enables the runner to customize his or her experience from a 4mm offset ready to run out of the box, to a more extreme 0mm offset
  • A sleeker anatomical upper with an ultra-breathable mesh that gives the shoe a featherweight, nearly invisible quality that delivers the ultimate connected experience

The Ideal Heel, unchanged from the first version of PureProject.

A closer look at the dual toe flex.

Removable insole.

The Nav Band across the fold-over tongue. Once again, the band could’ve been done without. To me, it lends nothing to the fit, that the asymmetrical lacing can’t do.

 

Compared to the Connect which is 7.3oz for the Men’s US9, the Drift weighs a paltry 5.6oz (5.1oz for the women), which puts it in the ballpark of Skechers’ GObionic (6.1oz), the other zero drop shoe which I really like. Personally I’d be more comfortable racing a marathon in shoes that come in around between 7 to 8oz. With that, I’ll leave the tech talk behind and move on to the wear experience.

The use of solid rubber is well implemented and concentrated along the high-wear areas.

Remove the insoles for a zero drop configuration, and there’s still a thin layer of cushioning to protect your feet.

Flip the insole over and there’s the message again.

First run was a post-rain 11K tempo. In the 4mm configuration, the shoe felt very fast and sleek, almost spike-like, only without the arch-fill. They’re more responsive and roomier than the Pure Connect, so this is one shoe where you’ll want to touch and go. They’ll definitely make excellent shoes for trackwork and short speed sessions on the road. That’s because there’s nothing in the midsole much to sink into. As with all low drop shoes, my lower legs definitely got their week’s volume of workout. The quads were largely spared. The fit around the collar is excellent. Small stones or pebbles will not get in that easily. I wore a pair of thin socks but had no issues of heat build up nor sensed any trouble hot spots. No wayward seams intruding into any areas either. As much as I would like to give full marks to Brooks for the build quality, there’s one area which I think could be a design anomaly. I’m not sure if this will only bother those with Morton’s Toe (Morton’s Toe is a common forefoot disorder where the second toe is longer than the Big Toe) or just about anyone. But the anomaly can be seen where the 2nd toe is. Instead of rambling and confusing you on what I mean here, let’s allow the photos to tell the story shall we?

See the indentation?

Another look at the area – even more obvious in this photo.

The right shoe has the same issue. The upper presses down on my 2nd toe.

Sidenote: Thankfully I’m not afflicted with any of the problems associated with Morton’s Toe [see here | or here]. The only thing that bothers me from time to time is the blistering under the toenail, which requires me to perform some DIY probing, puncturing and cutting. Nothing serious nor too painful but the squeamish folks may cringe.

Feet flat on the ground. See the indentation? The upper creases up and presses down on my 2nd toe. Noticeable feeling when walking in the shoes but recedes when running. Will be a problem as I discovered after a recent hard race when the toenail may be blistered or sore.

I figured that since the upper has no seam in this area the softer fabric just collapse inwards.  I looked up Dr Google and found another runner with the same issue in Singapore and it’s mentioned in that write up that this is a known issue.

Instead of the slapping sound made by the stiffer Kinvara 3 [read my initial impressions here], the Drift’s tap-tapping is much more muted.

The second run was a short 4K cool down run following a 5-mile tempo, but this time in zero drop configuration, with socks. The Drift’s forefoot cushioning has a slightly softer feel to that of the Skechers GObionic. Even so, my running gait still automatically adjusted to smaller lighter steps at a higher cadence. Lake Gardens provided the opportunity for a variety of running surface with some uneven sections. On more than one instances, I felt that the dual toe flex and flexibility of the Drift allowed my feet to bend this way and that lending stability to my footstrike. The most outstanding aspect of the shoe was the traction. After gingerly taking to the wet sections of the park, I’m able to confirm that the shoe performed fantastically well. From synthetic, bricked, pebbled and tarmac, I was able to go over them with a large measure of confidence. The surefootedness must be due to the solid rubber placements along the lateral side of the shoe.

If you’ve read my previous review of the GObionic, you’d be curious to how both shoes match up. I’d do better and compare the Drift to more similar shoes out there, in case you also wear them.

Close up view of the outsole. 17 km done in these babies.

Compared to:

  1. the discontinued Brooks Green Silence, the Drift is way more flexible, wider and a tad more forgiving at toe-off.
  2. to Brooks own Pure Connect, the Drift feels way more stable with better ground contact unlike the Connect which wobbles sideways a bit due to the curved shape of the midsole. The Drift’s upper feels less restrictive compared to the Connect’s.
  3. the Nike Free 3.0, the Drift is way more roomy up front even when compared to the 3.0 that’s a size up from my usual! The Drift also outscores the Free 3.0 in terms of breathability.
  4. the Skechers GOrun Ride, the Drift is a more minimalist shoe. While I’d have not hesitation in taking the Ride for a 13-mile run, I’d take it easy and shorter with the Drift. Both are well ventilated but the Drift is about 1.5oz lighter. Nearly all the shoes out there will have a hard time topping the stupendous upper of the GOrun Series though.
  5. Skechers GObionic. In the zero drop configuration, I only have the GObionic as a comparison simply because it’s the only other zero drop shoe I have. You’ll need to match my observations of the Drift against your current zero drops (Merrell, Saucony Hattori, VFFs, NB MR00). The GObionic is where the Drift will face a little competition. Both sports excellent room up front, allowing room for the toes to wiggle although the Skechers has a much appreciated higher toebox. Both have great breathability and traction. In terms of build quality, both are well made – only the Drift’s 2nd toe area indentation causing a little irritation as mentioned above. The Drift has a bit softer toe-off than the GObionic. In the looks department, the Drift definitely pips the GObionic – the Drift is what gets you to do a double take when a runner wearing it passes you. Both have removable insoles, have a barely there feel. If you can get past the upper indentation issue of the Drift, you won’t go wrong with it or the GObionic.

The Pure Drift is not yet available to the masses and will drop into stores only in January 2013 with a price tag of RM399.

Disclosure: My pair of Pure Drift is part of the Brooks Malaysia’s limited seeding program to get some feedback from the running community. The opinions stated in this post are entirely my own.

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