Carl Horton
Runners in the Pink Series half marathon race down Richardson Flats in Park City. Nearly 800 women participated in the race, which benefits women's cancer research.

In the hours leading up to the Pink Series half marathon, everything was going wrong for me. On the drive to check-in to our hotel, I realized I forgot my shoes. The Mexican food I ate for dinner messed with my digestion system. And when I laid out my race-day clothes before bed, I found I also forgot my socks.

That morning was no better. The weather was in the 30s and it was snowing outside. I left my water at the hotel room when we headed to the shuttle buses, so I went an hour and a half without hydrating. The Mexican food from the night before still hadn't settled well. By the time I went to the start line with roughly 800 other women, I was freezing and wet.

I hesitantly lined up with the two-hour pacer and hoped for the best. I kept my thoughts positive and envisioned how great it would feel to break the two hour mark. Running the Pink Series last year as my first half marathon, I finished in 2:08 and set a goal to eventually run a half in under two hours. It'd been a year coming, I now had a marathon and another half marathon under my belt, and I kept telling myself "You deserve this."

The first half of the race went quick. I stuck alongside the pacer from Utah Race Pacers, Lane, and struck up conversation with the fellow female runners. When we hit Mile 5 and Lane reported we had run it in 44 minutes, I was surprised — were we even going that fast? I felt great.

By Mile 8 though, I could tell I was hitting the wall. The pace group slowly got further and further away from me. My hamstrings hurt — and then my toe. I could feel Gu and Powerade sloshing uncomfortably in my stomach. The negative thoughts crept in. "I'm wearing brand new socks I hurriedly bought in a panic last night — it's a running rule to never race with new gear — I can feel all the blisters forming." "I didn't train as hard as I should have for this." "What have you done to me chicken enchillada? I think I'm going to be sick." Soon the pacer became a speedy ant-looking, neon-yellow blip in the distance.

I had to change my attitude. I put in headphones to listen to my catered running playlist. And I thought nothing but positive thoughts. "This light snow is actually really refreshing to run through." "I CAN catch up to the two hour pace group!" "Don't walk Amelia — you can run faster!"

Even more inspiring were the mantras printed and pinned on the back of runner's clothes: "Girls just wanna run!" "We run for Patti." "Every day is a gift." The Pink Series half marathon benefits women's cancer research, and the Utah Cancer Resource and Education for Women (UCREW) is the official beneficiary. The all-girls race was full of female runners making an extreme girl's weekend (like myself and my aunt Kim). Many of the participants had a story — daughters running for their moms who are battling breast cancer, cancer survivors running their first half marathon or girlfriends running with their friends who have finished chemotherapy.

Then I passed the tree where I vividly remember hitting the wall during last year's half marathon. "Your body is not giving out on you — it's your head," I told myself. And I ran even faster past it.

By Mile 11, I was out of the funk.The pace group was closer, but still too far away for me to catch. And I was OK with that. I was genuinely enjoying my race experience again and at least I'd still set a personal best.

The last mile is my favorite part of the course — it goes through the 107-acre Swaner Nature Preserve in Park City, past a picturesque white barn and along wood bridges. I relished it.

When I rounded the corner to the finish line, I sprinted in. I was exhausted but felt good about my race.

I headed over to the computers to check my official time chip time: 1:59.

I did it — I beat the mental game and made my time goal.

Amelia Nielson-Stowell is a writer, editor and photographer. She lives and runs in Salt Lake City.