Disney park tips: Animal Kingdom

I LOVE Disney’s Animal Kingdom!! It is intricately themed and has wonderful rides, shows and dining options. Much has been going on at Animal Kingdom recently, with the park transitioning into a night-time park and adding new dining options and new shows to be enjoyed! In 2017 the park will expand even more with the opening of Avatar Land!

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The Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Gideon and I are very much looking forward to going back to Animal Kingdom on our next Disney trip. Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your day at Animal Kingdom:

Head to Kilimanjaro Safaris early in the day: Kilimanjaro safaris is a safari experience which takes you up close to lots of different animals, through swamp and savanna! It’s amazing any time of day and you will have a unique experience on every trip because the animals are constantly moving around. However, it is said that the best time to ride is early in the morning as this is when the animals are at their most active! Another advantage of riding early is that queues are generally shorter. This ride is the most popular in the park so often generates long queues.

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Amazing theming at the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris. 

Don’t skip the shows: It might seem easy to skip some of Animal Kingdoms shows such as Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical in favour of riding more attractions, but they are definitely worth seeing! Festival of the Lion King especially is an absolute stand out show which shouldn’t be missed in our opinion. The lesser known flights of wonder also bears mentioning as a hidden gem where you get to learn about many of the feathered friends that live in Animal Kingdom!

Try some of the unique dining options: Animal Kingdom has expanded its dining options lately with the addition of the Harambe marketplace which serves African inspired foods and the more upmarket tiffins restaurant. In each of the different parts of the park you will be able to find food options that are inspired by foods from that area, from Tusker house buffet in the Africa section to Yak and Yeti in the Asia section or just some good old BBQ at flame tree in Discovery Island. There is something for everyone at Animal Kingdom so explore your options well and don’t just settle for burger and fries (unless of course thats what you really fancy).

Fastpass Expedition Everest or use the single rider line: Expedition Everest is Animal Kingdoms top thrill ride and is not to be missed by rollercoaster fans! It is both exhilarating and has an excellent story and theming throughout. Naturally though it is also very popular and often generates long standby wait times, so use a fastpass for it or consider the single rider line if you don’t mind riding by yourself as this often cuts the wait time considerably.

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Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom

Do the walking trails: It can be easy to skip some of the wildlife trails in favour of other attractions, but they are rarely crowded and can make a nice break from the busy main areas of the park. There are a variety of animals to see on the trails that you can’t see elsewhere in the park such as Tigers in the Maharajah jungle trek and Gorillas on the Pagani forest trail. Plus the areas have some really beautiful Disney details built into them, as evidenced by the below photos I took on the Maharajah jungle trek!

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Consider a mid day break: Although there are some shaded areas, Animal Kingdom is very much an outdoor park and therefore in the hotter months the heat can get unbearable. If heat bothers you, consider taking a mid-day break and heading back to the hotel for a rest then coming back in the late afternoon, which you can now do easily thanks to the recent extension in parks hours. If that isn’t convenient, perhaps plan to do some of the indoor shows during the hottest part of the day so that you can have a break from the sun for a while.

Don’t miss the night time entertainment: Granted, we haven’t been since the park hours were extended to include those in the evening and after dark, but I cannot wait to experience all the new night time offerings the park has to offer. The tree of life awakening projection show looks particularly amazing, and I’m sure the new night time safari will prove to be a completely different experience to it’s daytime equivalent. I cannot wait to spend an evening at Animal Kingdom during our next trip and experience all the new night time offerings first hand!

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Dinoland USA at Disneys Animal Kingdom
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Harambe at Disneys Animal Kingdom

There are so many other great things to see and do in Animal Kingdom which we haven’t really mentioned such as Dinosaur, It’s Tough to be a Bug and Kali River Rapids so carve out a whole day to spend here if you can in order to have the time to experience and enjoy it all!

What are your top tips? Let us know in the comments!

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Swansea half marathon race report!

So I did it guys! I finished the Swansea half marathon on Sunday 26th June 2016. My home half marathon! It was as I expected it to be, which if you don’t regularly read this blog was ‘hard’. I was thoroughly unprepared and under-trained for this race and decided (against my better judgement) to do it anyway. Since March (when I ran my first half marathon which you can read about here) my longest run had been 7 miles, and my maintenance runs had been patchy to say the least. So in the interests of full disclosure and perhaps as a word of warning to someone in a similar situation to myself I will first talk you through how the race went, and then I will talk you through my recovery – which wasn’t pretty!

I woke at around 7am, got up and had a pre-race breakfast of jam on toast. I didn’t have much of an appetite actually which is weird for me. I decided to take a banana with me to eat once we got down to where the race was being staged. We left the house just before 8 and it was a quick journey into town (which is to be expected at such an early hour on a Sunday morning). From our direction we avoided the road closures and were able to park easily near the rail station and walk to the start line from there.

The race village was actually a fair way from the starting line (which was bang in the centre of the main high street in town) so we didn’t bother venturing down to it. Gideon (who sadly couldn’t run because he was still recovering from his appendectomy) had all my stuff so there was no need for bag drop or anything like that. We milled around the start for a while, with lots of other runners. I used the porta loos twice with no queue whatsoever! Amazing!

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Start line pic!

Eventually after a short delay had been announced due to traffic issues I wandered over to my corral (wave 2) and we started shortly after. I had positioned myself in between the 2.20 and 2.30 pacer. An extremely unrealistic goal but it’s somehow just where I ended up in the crowd. On a side note, I really liked that they had a 2.30 pacer. Most of the races I’ve done seem to stop after 1 hr (for 10k) or 2 hrs (for half) so it was nice to have a pacer for the slower group like myself.

We were soon off, you sort of loop through town and then down onto the main seafront road where it’s just a straight out and back, before looping back into town again at the end.  The course is mostly flat, with some very small inclines here and there but nothing to be considered a hill of any sort!

I’d decided not to wear my Garmin for this race as I thought it would be better to just go out and enjoy it and not worry about time as I was so under-trained. I do wonder whether had I worn it I would have pushed a bit harder towards the end, but in hindsight (and when you read further down you may realise why) I’m glad I didn’t. I ran the first 3 miles without any stopping. I was a bit disappointed that there was no 5k chip mat, because I thought I had been doing really really well up until then and would have quite liked to have known my time.

From then on everything went downhill. I started walking when I felt tired. At first not too much, but I felt that familiar knee pain start to creep up just after mile 4. It was annoying as I thought it had gone, but I guess that serves you right for running undertrained! My 10k time wasn’t too bad actually by my standards (1 hour 13 minutes 33 seconds) but I was already starting to flag. From then on it was a slow slog back to the finish line, one which involved a lot of walking, a fair bit of self-pity and a considerable amount of pain in the knee from mile 9 onwards.

The field really started to spread out from about mile 10, so that at times, even though there were good couple of hundred people behind me it really felt like you were running alone. It also didn’t help that towards the end people had clearly thought the race was done with and were just walking all over the course and people were picking up trash etc. I understand a clean up has to be done but it’s very demoralising for us at the back when they have already started packing up and your still running.

With just under a mile left, another girl caught up to me and urged me to keep running with her. I was struggling a lot with my knee but she really pulled me through and we ran the whole of that last section together. I didn’t get her name but I really was very grateful to her for the encouragement and made sure to thank her afterwards.

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About to cross the line (my friend had sprinted off by this point)

I ended up crossing the line in 2 hrs 45 minutes and 52 seconds, which is only about 6 minutes slower than my first half marathon, and I guess that isn’t that bad considering how under-trained I was and how much walking I did.

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My post-run beetroot face.
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Ahh so happy – if only I had known what was to come…

So that was the race, now onto my recovery, and I may get a bit TMI here, so please feel free to skip the next paragraph if you really don’t want to know.

I had my poweraid straight after like I always do and I tried to munch a few of the kale chips that were part of the goody bag (but I don’t really care for kale chips to be honest).  We drove back home via tesco and I had a shower and then had my homemade nachos which I had been looking forward too all day. Then I promptly threw them back up again. And it continued this way, for about 3 hours. I could not keep anything down, my stomach completely and utterly emptied itself and would not stop until I eventually got so exhausted that I managed to lie in a somewhat un-nauseating position and stayed deadly still for about an hour. It was horrible. Absolutely horrible.

Now I don’t know if what happened after the race was because I was under-trained, or if I had a bad reaction to something (I don’t know what though because everything I ate both pre / during and post race I have eaten many times) but it totally ruined any joy I had about this race. It was a hard race anyway, but I was at least at first glad I finished. By the time that was over, I was wishing I had never done it. If I am ever under-trained that much again, if my mind ever tells me it probably isn’t wise then there is no way I am racing. I have learnt my lesson. No medal is worth that. And annoyingly now when I look at that medal I’m just going to be reminded of what a hideous afternoon I had.

So that’s me done with half marathons for a little bit now. Not just because of my recovery, although that has scared me somewhat, but because I’ve clearly been getting a bit of training fatigue  and could just use a break from the big distances for a while. So no more half marathons for at least the rest of this year. I’m sticking to 10ks and 5ks from this point forward. I’m sure something will tempt me back to half marathons at some point (I’m looking at you RunDisney) but I don’t expect it will be any time this year – and if I do end up getting into the London marathon, I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

This week, I intend to have a proper rest, so expect a lot of Disney posts rather than running related ones!

How awesome is my finishing photo though??? AWESOMEEEEE

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2 days to go…

…until I run the Swansea half marathon!! So how am I feeling about things this week? Well if I’m honest, I haven’t really given it much thought. I’m feeling a bit indifferent to the whole situation. I’d almost even forgotten it was happening! How bad is that!

I ran on Monday. I did 1.5 miles on the hills in just over 15 minutes which is pretty speedy for me. It wasn’t a bad run particularly but it wasn’t easy. Since then I’ve just been chilling. I’ve had a busy work week so that’s taken up a lot of my time and energy, and today I’m in a bit of a state of shock from the referendum news but I’ve at least got out and had a little walk.

I think I’m prepared. I’m as prepared as I’ll ever be anyway. I’ve not trained enough, but I have a plan and the plan is to take it easy. Basically, I’m not going to push it, I’m just going to enjoy it and soak in the atmosphere. I’m not going to stick to any intervals, I’m just going to listen to my body and run when I want and walk when I want. I’m not taking my watch. It’s chip timed, but I don’t really want to know. If it turns out it went well it will be a pleasant surprise. If it’s snail pace slow then it won’t matter because I’ll still get to eat my weight in nachos guilt-free afterwards! Either way it’s a win win.

I’m going to stick with what I know in terms of fuelling. I almost forgot to buy bananas today when I went to the store because I’d almost forgotten the run was even happening! Then it dawned on me and I thought I’d better stock up. I’ll have chicken and rice tomorrow night for dinner then toast with jam and a banana on Sunday for breakfast. I’ll take water with me and clif shots for energy. That generally works so Sunday should be no exception.

The weather isn’t looking too bad, maybe a few showers, maybe not. A little bit of a breeze. Not to bad at all really. I still think that if I wake up on Sunday to torrential rain though I’ll be staying in bed!

Overall, I thought I’d be more excited to run a half marathon in my home town, but I’m really just feeling quite indifferent to the whole idea. I also feel sad as Gideon still isn’t allowed to run so can’t join me, but he is coming to watch which will give me a nice mid-run boost!

I hope that maybe come Sunday morning I’ll feel a bit more excited about the prospect of running. I’ve never felt less excited for a race, which is weird, but I think that’s just down to not feeling well prepared. Perhaps once I’m with the other 8000 runners and on my way the atmosphere will improve my spirits! If not, I guess the thought of a giant plate of nachos will have to be enough to get me through!

 

Weekly training recap: Mon 13th – Sun 19th June

I got back into training this week with a very light week – which I realise isn’t ideal a week before a half marathon but it’s really all I had the energy for. I was still pretty knackered from the busy week before where I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep thanks to Gideon’s appendicitis and my horrible cold. The cold continued on in ‘phlegmy cough’ format this week, and it took me until Wednesday to feel ready to run any distance. Wednesdays run was small, but I knew I needed to pull something bigger out if I was going to be able to do next weeks half marathon so I did a horrible 10k Friday evening (which you can read about here).

I’m still feeling pretty phlegmy which isn’t ideal, but I’m not feeling tired anymore so that’s good.

Monday:

Rest day.

Tuesday:

Rest day.

Wednesday:

Ran 1 mile in 10:28 (hilly). I actually thought it was slower than this until I just looked it up. I’m pretty pleased with that in hindsight considering I was still quite chesty!

Thursday:

Rest day.

Friday:

Ran 6.2 miles (hilly) using run/walk intervals which I lost track of after a while. Average pace: 12:31 per mile. That is actually not that bad considering how horrible it felt, I’m surprised I managed to average that and I actually got a bit faster in the last mile (probably because I just wanted it to end).

Saturday:

Rest day.

Sunday:

Rest day.

My plan in the run up to Sundays Swansea half marathon is to do a couple of short runs of maybe 2-3 miles around the hills. Hopefully then running on the flat on Sunday will feel a little easier. The half starts at 9am so at least it will be over by lunchtime and I won’t be worrying about it all day. At the moment the weather is looking good – maybe even a little too good – but we are still a way off so everything could still change!

 

A test…

So I’ve spent all week this week on the fence about whether I should try to run next weekends half marathon. I don’t want to lose my money, but I know I’m definitely not trained sufficiently. In fact I had a look back at my Garmin data since Easter’s half marathon and I’ve only ran about 50 miles. I know that really isn’t enough! However I think with a combination of running and walking I should still be able to finish it. I’m giving up all expectations of a time goal. A time improvement is no longer really an option. I’m expecting to complete it in around the same time as I completed the last one (2 hrs 39 if anyone is wondering), probably even longer if I’m not feeling great on the day or if it’s really hot. But I would like to finish it because it’s my home race and I want the medal!!!

So yesterday I set myself a test. Despite missing a few weeks training due to unforeseen circumstances, my plan said 10k this weekend for taper so 10k is what I wanted to do. I figured if I could get through that after not running for 2 weeks I can get through the half next weekend.

And I did get through it.

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But it was HORRIBLE.

It was without a doubt the worst 10k I’ve ever done, but what should I expect after a lack of training? It was never going to be an easy run, I’ve learnt now from experience that my last long runs for whatever distance never turn out to be easy! This was particularly hard because I choose to do it on a Friday evening (get it out the way) on the hills around our house! What was I thinking?!? that’s just setting myself up for failure!!

But I didn’t fail. I did it. I ran around the houses for 6.2 miles up and down and round and round. I walked a fair bit (firstly sticking to intervals and then giving up and just walking up the hills). I ran home 3 times to have a drink cause I didnt want to carry it with me. But I ALWAYS went back out. Despite my mind saying forget it, sit down and do the deferral, I didn’t listen and I went back out until I had done the whole 10k. It took an hour and 17 minutes which is sloooow. But I did it. I passed my test. It was horrible, but I did it, and I think on a pancake flat course, with crowd support and friends I can do it again (and then some) next weekend.

The thing I’m clinging onto is that I have trained most of my miles this time around on the hills. I hope that this will be what saves me next weekend. Swansea half marathon is pancake pancake flat. You can’t find flatter. Please let this hill training be to my advantage! Running on the flat should feel like a breeze compared to running on the hills. I know I’ll have to go a lot longer, but I’m hoping mentally it won’t feel so tough because It’ll be lovely and flat.

And I think next week I’m going to leave my tech at home and run watch-free. I don’t want to know about my pace and time. I want to run by feel and I want to walk when I feel like it not when the watch tells me too. I want to enjoy it for what it is – a beautiful run in my home town with beautiful views and 8000 other people to keep me going!

So it appears I’m doing this. Wish me luck!

 

Should I?

Understandably last week was a bit mental – between my husband having emergency surgery to remove his appendix, my horrible cold and then my brothers wedding I have done zero miles of running. Swansea half marathon is 2 weeks away and I really don’t know if I should run it. So far, I’ve only managed a longest run of 7 miles this training cycle which I’m just not sure is long enough, so unless I do manage to get out and do another long run this week I’m not sure it’s sensible.

On the other hand, this isn’t my first half marathon. I do know what to expect now and the last one wasn’t even 3 months ago. Does this mean I should be able to manage it – expecting to be sore and unable to move afterwards of course? I just don’t know.

I’m not the kind of person who likes signing up and paying money for stuff and then not actually doing it.. so I suspect I’ll end up giving it a shot anyway and if it makes for a miserable experience it makes for a miserable experience!

Have you ever been in the situation where you felt under-trained for a race? Did you run anyway? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!

– 1 appendix

Last week in my training recap I said that I didn’t want to run 9.5 training miles by myself. Well I no longer have a choice because on Monday morning poor old Gideon took a trip to A&E because he’d started having abdominal pain and by Tuesday morning was -1 appendix!

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Post surgery drowsy thumbs up!

Thankfully the surgery seemed to go smoothly and he’s now recovering and hopefully will be coming home today, but he’s not allowed to do any strenuous exercise for 6 weeks so no Swansea half marathon for him 😦

He’s obviously pretty upset about it and so am I, because It’s sad to have your training buddy out of action and he wanted to do this half marathon a lot more than I do. Unfortunately though the dreaded appendicitis doesn’t wait for your calendar to be free!