First the Sahara, now the North Channel... Lauren O'Malley adds relay swim to her list of achievements
A Co Down woman has swum the North Channel as part of a six-person relay team - the latest extreme endurance event she has taken part in.
Lauren O'Malley and the rest of the Global Trident team completed the 21.6-mile swim from Donaghadee, Co Down, to Portpatrick, Scotland, in a total time of 11 hours, 54 minutes and 17 seconds.
She took part in the one-way relay after team captain Chrissie O'Brien, from Carlingford, invited her to join Darran Cusick, Dominic Mudge, Francie Haughey and Louise Darlington, who came from Pennsylvania in the US to join the effort.
Lauren, who is married to well-known Newry mountaineer and Mount Everest conqueror Terence 'Banjo' Bannon, completed the Marathon des Sables ultra-running event in the Sahara desert in 2017.
She said her body felt "as bad if not worse" after the North Channel relay as it did after the 156-mile run in the Sahara.
She added: "The Marathon des Sables still takes the top spot, as it is such a prolonged period of suffering.
"This was a different kind (of suffering) as it is more than just the event. The near 12 hours was nothing compared to the time spent training in freezing conditions since January.
"I was getting hypothermia three or four times a week, but you have to get your body used to pushing through those temperatures."
Each team member took turns swimming for an hour and then rotated onto the next member, meaning they were each in the water for around two hours.
The Global Tridents raised £930 for Irish suicide awareness charity SOSAD and a further £500 for Oesophageal Cancer NI.
Team captain Chrissie O'Brien hailed the day as the "icing on the cake" after fulfilling her dream of taking on one of the hardest swims in the world.
She said: "I wanted this team to be based on friendship rather than elitism and inclusion rather than exclusion. It was my pleasure and honour to lead them through this journey. I know we are forever bonded through this shared experience.
"It was a team captain delight to lead off on the first leg of the swim from the freezing, jellyfish-infested waters at Donaghdee."
Three Irish swimmers also broke the world record for the fastest three-person relay swim across the North Channel.
Married couple Rachael Lee and Tom Healy, along with Ronan Joyce, known as Ocean Breakers, finished in nine hours and 20 minutes,beating the previous record by 38 minutes.
Kamil Resa (58), from Alsaran, Turkey, became the oldest man to swim the North Channel solo after finishing in a time of 13 hours, 55 minutes and 37 seconds.
His feat was hailed as "amazing and inspiring" by Lauren.
She added: "It is phenomenal that a human can do that alone as the relay took everything out of me. It is different as in the relay you are in full sprint mode every time you're in the water."
A four-person relay team, the Mad Turks, also completed the swim in 12 hours, 14 minutes and 11 seconds.