Jo Pitten will always remember 2022 as the year she became a double world champion for the Great Britain Age-Group Team.
Competing in the Female 45-49 World Triathlon Winter Championships in Andorra, Pitten never thought she would win her first race in just under two years.
The two-time former European champion, who lives in France by Lake Geneva, streaked home over 24 minutes clear of her nearest challenger in the winter duathlon. Two days later in the winter triathlon, Pitten battled through a nasty bout of cramp to finish just under 15 minutes ahead of Great Britain teammate Nicola Don-Wider.
“It was pretty amazing actually,” Pitten said. “I don’t think it really hit me until afterwards. I still don’t think I realise what sort of an achievement it is.
“I thought I’d enter the duathlon as a warmup for the triathlon. I didn’t expect to win the triathlon because Nicola [Don-Wider], who was in my age group, had beaten me before.
“I didn’t know how much I’d improved because I hadn’t raced for a couple of years.”
Pitten shocked the field to finish second among women from every age group in the duathlon and started just as strongly in the run, bike, ski on February 6.
“I didn’t have a clue how far ahead I was,” recalled Pitten. “In fact, I was leading the triathlon out of women from all the age groups.
“Then I got cramp in my thigh on the last hill coming home and I fell. I just collapsed and couldn’t get up.
“I was putting ice on my leg and luckily one of the Spanish team, who didn’t speak a word of English, gestured ‘come on, you can do it’.
“If he hadn’t done that, I don’t think I would have even finished the race. It was painful. At the end and at the medal ceremony I tracked him down and gave him a big hug.”
Pitten is no stranger to overcoming adversity as a sufferer of fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, fatigue and headaches.
“Because of my fibromyalgia, my training is quite hard,” she said. “I learn from every race what I’m capable or not capable of doing because I have to deal with the pain.
“I generally don’t do the duathlon because running can bring on relapses if it’s too intense. That’s why even though I’m defending my title, I’m only doing the triathlon in the World Championships in Norway.”
The Age-Group Team provide British Triathlon members with the opportunity to represent Great Britain internationally at World and European Championships in a variety of swim, bike, run disciplines and distances.
Championship racing opportunities are available in triathlon (swim, bike, run), duathlon (run, bike, run), aquathlon (swim, run), aquabike (swim, bike), cross duathlon (cross country run, mountain bike, cross country run) and triathlon (swim, mountain bike, cross country run) and winter duathlon (cross country run, ski, cross country run) and triathlon (cross country ski, mountain bike, run).
While Pitten is looking forward to making a bid for consecutive world titles, the former Deal Tri member can’t help wishing she had learned about triathlon sooner having taken the first step on her path to international recognition at the 2014 UK Xterra in Cranleigh.
“I didn’t know anything about triathlon then, I just took the kids for an adventure weekend camping,” she said.
“I just happened to be sitting at the table with some of the people that race for Great Britain, they gave me the Facebook page and it all went from there.
“Having gone to London 2012, I then realised I could actually qualify to race for my country and that’s what made me so determined.
“I looked it up and I was like ‘right, I’m going to qualify to represent Great Britain’, and I didn’t tell anybody.
“The main thing now is the pride in representing your country, being part of such a close-knit and friendly team.
“Although we’re very competitive, there’s a real team spirit, and when you race on the snow you just feel so alive.”
Find out more about representing the Great Britain Age-Group Team and competing in British Age Group Championships on the link below: https://www.britishtriathlon.org/events/championships-and-qualifiers.
Images provided by athlete.