Running cross country competitively was very tricky when it came to evaluation of race performances. The distance is supposed to be fixed at 5 miles, but the list of variables is long: wind, heat, hills, terrain, etc. We often raced on a course near the Missippi River. In the year or so following a big flood this course could actually be 30-45 sec. slower just because of the addition of sand and silt to the ground! Racing cross for so many years taught be to evaluate based more on feel and level of effort instead of strictly looking at times. One of my best collegiate cross races was also one of my slowest. The course was very hilly and it was fairly hot. Based on my level of effort and overall place I know it was one of my best races even though it wasn't reflected in my time.
Racing with a Powertap takes away some of this guesswork. Power is consistent across all terrain and course conditions (ie wind). At Kona I produced almost 15 watts more power than I did the year before at Wisconsin. 15 watts over 112 miles should have yielded a big time drop, but instead it was only in the ballpark of 10 minutes faster. That tells you something about how difficult the day was. Even better was this race report from first-year pro Alex McDonald. He calls '08 Kona the "Hardest race I've ever done" and offers this important piece of contextual information: "Just as an indication of how much harder the bike was this year, my bike leg was 5 minutes slower than last year, yet I held an average power that was 15 watts higher." This is great information because it is a true "apples to apples" power comparison of Kona '07 and Kona '08.
"Maggs" is apparently a follower of the Evotri team and left me a comment about Kona. I saw she was from Hawaii and raced the IM, so I thought I would tap some local knowledge about the course conditions. She says, "Those winds were worse than normal, especially the cross winds, they were pretty brutal (but not the worst I've ridden in over there)."
So this will be the end of beating this dead horse! What all this tells me is that yes it was a tough day even for a course where everyone expects tough days.