It's a beautiful course around a new park, it's well organized and has a nice atmosphere. Like the previous reviewer said, you basically go around a 4-mile loop six times, with a one mile entry and exit. I found it nice to get accustomed to what turns were coming up, and when to expect those aid stations. There are a few short gentle hills in one section of the loop, and the only 'sharp' turn is during the entry/exit (so you hit it twice), and it's not even that sharp.
The previous reviewer who went in 2016 unfortunately suffered warmer weather, and had a mild complaint about gel being handed out at the end of the line. Well, in 2017, we had perfect weather right around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And they were handing out gel at both the beginning and end of the line. Many of the volunteers handing out drinks would move along with you to help hand-off without slowing you down much. I thought they all did a great job.
My biggest complaint? There was a slight sulphur or rotten egg smell near the beginning of the race which dissipated after a lap or two. The park is an old gravel pit, and they have some sort of oil drilling machines; I'm not sure if those are the source of the smell. But really, it was nothing significant. I'm only mentioning it because I have no other complaints.
You really don't need a specific pacing strategy for this course. The entry to the loop at the start is *slightly* downhill, so you should know that the exit from the loop at the finish is *slightly* uphill. I didn't find it to be a big deal, though.
OK, I went for a cheap motel called America's Best Value Inn on the northwest side of Grand Rapids. I would recommend against repeating my mistake. It's not all that helpful to have riffraff yapping away on the balcony until 3am. Room wasn't very clean and there were some maintenance issues.
By BL about 2016
The event was well organized, thanks to Don Kern and volunteers.All runners are BQ-minded, I felt the atmosphere and was inspired by it before the race.
Plenty of parking if you arrive 30mins before the race.
In this course, you run a 4-mile loop six times. It might sound boring, but the park is beautiful and has different views for you to distract yourself during the race, if you choose to. 1st mile of the loop is slightly hilly, the rest is almost flat.
Aid station is every 2 miles. Although there are elite tables for your own bottles, I found that not helpful because toss basket for the bottles is too short from the table. Not enough time for enough liquid. The race day was very humid, my body constantly asked for fluid during the 2nd half. And the aid station that is 2 miles apart became very very long for me. I would recommend drink from cups during the 1st half, and carry your own water bottle and gels (take advantage of the elite table) in the 2nd half of the race.
Gel supply is every 4 miles, but gel was given at the end of aid station. So I was forced to use both hand. Unless you stop, it is very difficult to take gel without a lot of water spilled. Not an ideal setting when you get tired during the 2nd half.
Most hotels are 10-25 mins away from the course. I stayed at 3 CHEAP hotels during my preparation. Knights Inn on Plainfield Ave (not recommended); Best Western on 28th St (GOOD); and Grandvillage Inn for the race (OK). For some reason, hotel price hiked before the race day.