I can’t really speak for the mass start but I suspect you’ll be starting ahead of the majority of runners. As for the course, the first mile is mostly a gradual downhill as you head toward the Milwaukee River in downtown, running between the tall buildings (in other words pretty well sheltered from any potential wind). Once you cross the river, you will work up a gradual uphill until turning north at about 1.5-2 miles. It is then flat until you take a right turn and run down a steep hill to the lakefront. The 3 mile mark is at the base of this downhill. From that point, the course follows the lakefront to the 4 mile mark before looping through the Third Ward into the finish line. The final 2 miles are about as flat as possible.
The fan support is probably typical of a large local/regional race. You get a few bands on the sidewalk as you go through downtown and there is a fair amount of spectators, though I think using the word crowds would be beyond excessive with the possible exception of the start and finish areas.
As I mentioned in the e-mail to the team this weekend (if you didn’t get the e-mail please let me know) there are two possibilities for warmup. You could park near the start and warm up in the Marquette/downtown area or you could park near the finish and warm up to the start. We should be able to have your race packet at either location if you let me know which you would prefer.
The only word of wisdom I would give is have a plan for parking when you get to the race and give yourself plenty of time. I still think carpooling in would be a good idea. Last year, I was almost late for my warmup because I got caught in a traffic jam when the exit I planned on taking was closed and the next exit was badly backed up. With the interchange construction going on this year, I just hope things aren’t even worse. Just in case, though, I’m going to give myself plenty of extra time. I’d rather have to sit back and relax for a while at the starting area than be worried about getting there in time.
BTW: I just heard from last year’s #1 runner from the team that he has a coaching conflict and won’t be able to make it. All hands on deck, we’re going to need a top level team effort to defend the title.