SUWANEE - For Wren Caples, the motivation to complete a triathlon can be found in her heart and in between her ears.
In her heart is her older sister, Kate, who suffered a stroke at the age of 46.
In between her ears is her brain, of course, that shadowy enigma that initially told her she couldn't brave Suwanee's rolling hills when she began training.
After rocky beginnings, both of these emotional cores have improved. And, on Sunday, will be on display as Caples competes in the Aflac Iron Girl sprint triathlon -a 1/3 mile swim, 18-mile bike, and 3-mile run - at Lake Lanier Islands Resort.
Caples says she confronted her own mortality through her sister's stroke. A year after the incident, Kate continues to make improvements.
"When my sister got sick, I started thinking about setting a goal and leading a healthier lifestyle than I had been," says Caples, 41, who lives in Suwanee with her husband and two children, ages 8 and 11.
Time was, Caples got easily gassed maneuvering the rolling hills in her neighborhood on her runs. Heck, she could barely finish a 25-yard lap in the swimming pool.
In March, Caples began training for the triathlon with three other women (in honor of her sister, they formed a team called "Stroke of Genius"). Their weekly schedule has slowly progressed. In the weeks leading up to Sunday's race, the ladies open water swim for an hour at Mary Alice Park on Mondays, perfect their swim technique at a local pool on Wednesdays, bike for 20 miles on Thursdays and run on Fridays.
To the say the least, Caples' transformation isn't just physical.
"I've noticed a difference in the way I feel," the interior designer says. "I'd have to say more so my energy level and I've got a more positive outlook."
Her kids - Ridge and Sammie - and husband, Scott, have also benefited from Caples' regimine. Now that school is out, Caples' children join her on swims and runs, and Scott has made more of an effort to get back in shape. Fish, pasta and vegetables are now mainstays at the dinner table.
"It's setting an example for my kids ... Through my training, everything has kind of spiraled. It builds, and then you don't want to go to the drive-thru at McDonald's," she says laughing.
As daunting as a triathlon sounds, she says anyone can complete the event. After all, she says, she too used to be a skeptic.
"You don't know you can't do it if you don't try."