Standing on the indoor racing track in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Dr. Peter Megdal, America’s newest national record holder for the hour time trial for the sixty-year-old age group, wasn’t sure if he should cry or celebrate. Months of grueling training had led him to this moment.
Dominating his thoughts, however, was his older brother Eddie, who had died of heart disease at only 61 a few years earlier, becoming the latest member of Peter’s family to succumb to the disease. “I was elated to have broken the record,” Peter confirms, “but it was bittersweet. There were so many people I would have loved to have seen in the stands, but heart disease took them from me and robbed all of us of the ability to share the joy of my victory together.”
Peter’s journey to becoming an elite, world-class cyclist is a deeply personal story for him and reveals his passion for both exercise and fitness and for curing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. “It has stalked my family for probably generations,” he confirms. “My parents and my brothers all died from heart disease, brought on by Type II diabetes. My only remaining sibling also has Type II diabetes. The reason I have avoided diabetes is because I have remained physically active by cycling competitively for more than forty years.”
Heart disease, unfortunately, would find Peter, but it would not have the last word. “I was able to cure my heart disease,” he reveals, “but to do it, I had to reject some of the standard treatments and instead think outside of the box. I had just gotten my doctorate in nutrition through the University of Massachusetts and was doing well in the pharmaceutical industry.
Life was good, but at age 55, I hit a wall that everyone that age hits sooner or later: my body downshifted, so to speak, and I couldn’t produce as much power on the bike as I was used to.” After three years of trying to improve and failing, he was diagnosed with multiple lesions in his coronary arteries. Heart disease had arrived.
Statin drugs, baby aspirin, and a stent did not help. “What did wonders for me was switching to a low-fat vegan diet and a short list of cholesterol-lowering drugs,” Peter shares. “It was a dramatic difference. My cholesterol dropped, and I was able to increase my power on the bike beyond what it had been when I was diagnosed.”
With his improved health, Peter set the national hour record in 2018 and now set his sights on breaking the world record for the sixty-year-old age group. “That was a bumpy road, to say the least,” he remembers. “In 2019, I overcame a near fatal infection and then had a total shoulder replacement surgery. COVID-19 just delayed training even more, so I had to remain motivated and not let myself believe that I couldn’t do it.”
In 2020, Peter decided to go for it. “I started training intensively even though all indoor velodromes were closed because of the virus. Things went well enough that I was able to do some races, and in May 2021, I won a time trial. I told myself, ‘Game on!’”
After taking third in a hill climb time trial up the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire, Peter was confronted with yet another obstacle. “That July, I had a terrible crash,” he recalls. “Long story short, I broke the part of my hip where my femur inserts into my pelvis. It was a devastating injury that threw into question whether or not I could continue.”
Fortunately, his doctors believed Peter would heal eventually. He still, however, struggled with doubts that he could ever get back to full strength, especially since his record attempt was only 96 days away. “I guess I was just stubborn enough to keep going,” he reflects. “I don’t give up easily, as my wife will attest. Only one month after the crash, I took second-place in a time trial. I got off the bike, and my wife handed me my crutches so that I could hobble to the car. I did it, though!”
Peter kept Aguascalientes, Mexico, on his calendar and threw himself into his training. “The distance for the race had been increased, and I was still 10% shy of the power that I would need to break the record,” he states. “I was going to have to dig down deep to accomplish this.”
After training at a high altitude in Mammoth, California, for two weeks, he arrived in Mexico three days before his attempt at the record. His early times exceeded the world record pace in practice laps, but threatening his ability to deliver on race day were his nerves.
“I couldn’t sleep, and I was on the verge of a panic attack,” he says. “I had this sense of doom hanging over me, which killed my performance on race day. I had to stop only forty minutes into the hour-attempt, and for the rest of that day, I did my best to calm down, shake off my disappointment, and get my head on straight for tomorrow.”
On October 14, 2021, Peter got on his bike again and started cycling. “I felt different that morning. I had shrugged off the disaster of the previous day and now had the national record pacing drilled into my mind,” he states. “However, it was in the 80s, which hurt me because I realized later that I hadn’t trained for the temperature.
In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the outside temperatures were in the 50s. I kept going, though. This was my last chance at a record, and I was going to do everything I could to break it.”
Everything was going well until about forty minutes. “I hit what is similar to a marathoner’s ‘wall,’” Peter remembers. “I began to fade fast. With every lap I took, I bled one or two seconds. It doesn’t sound like much, but with a national record at stake, it was potentially disastrous. I couldn’t believe that I might fail yet again after everything I had been through to get here.”
His bike, once a friend that took him through beautiful scenery and was his companion for hours at a time, was turning against him. “I was in severe pain because my ‘sit bones’ felt like they were being crushed under the weight of my body. That was due to the steep banking of the turns, which was causing significant g-forces with every lap.
Shifting my position would have meant I would have lost precious seconds, so I had to sit still. I couldn’t find relief. Honestly, I was also just flat-out tired. I hadn’t been able to do long endurance rides in my training because I had been recovering from a broken hip.”
As the one-hour mark approached, the crowd cheered louder and louder. With only five minutes to go, Peter was in pain and weaving all over the track. “I was ready to get off!” he laughs. “I love my bike, but seriously, I was ready to get off and into a hot tub. Where was that stupid bell and gun that would signal this was over with? I kept waiting for them, and the seconds got longer and longer.”
When he finally heard them, he coasted to a stop, where officials helped him to get off his bike. “Finally!” he laughs again. “My legs were killing me, but I immediately looked for the clock. When I saw that I had gone 27.9 miles in an hour, I realized I had broken and set the new national record, and my emotions overcame me in a rush.”
Although many of his family members weren’t there to celebrate, Peter was grateful that his wife, coach, and new friends were. “So many people helped me throughout my training, and I could never have done this without their support. The cycling community is very close, and I was happy to meet so many new cyclists and support them as they rode in their own races.”
Today, Peter is training for his next race and runs Curing Heart Disease, LLC, which focuses on empowering anyone with heart disease to reverse it and even cure it. “I cured mine because I had access to cutting-edge health and wellness information,” he states. “I want everyone who has heart disease to know that with the right diet, exercise, medicines, and other resources, they can fight – and beat – this deadly disease. They do not have to be another statistic. Instead, they can live a long, healthy life and prevail just like I have.”
For more information on how you can learn to reverse and even cure your own heart disease, please visit:
Published January 10th, 2022