First off, the drive to Birch lake is beautiful. Green pastures and rolling hills but don't let them intimidate you. Come to think of it, it will likely be dark when everyone is driving in race morning so you won't really see much. In that case, you'll just have to take my word for the scenery and about those hills, never mind those.
I decided to ride the course on my Tri bike to see how it handled the hills and it rode just fine. I rode the 70.3 loop, which incorporates both the sprint and Olympic as well, and have decided to break it down into sections and since the first stretch includes all distances I've elaborated a bit more there.
From the lake:
I rode from what I'm guessing would be the transition area and coming out of the park there is a small climb. It is a bit challenging since it is right from the start but isn't very long and wasn't terrible.
Once out of the park, the road is a little bumpy but not too bad overall.
There is a pretty good roller into Barnsdall by the church. Carry your speed down the hill and you should be fine going up the incline into town. It's it pretty simply from there and then left turn onto 2420.
County Road 2420:
Beautiful scenery, smooth & clear road, very little traffic. This road is mostly rollers but you'll find a significant climb about a mile or so in. There is a right bend in the road and you can see the climb coming so there was no real surprise to it. I was able to get into gear I liked and spin up it without much issue. I didn't feel like there were any real sharp inclines on the climb so I was able to keep a steady cadence up it but it is still a challenge.
After that, there are gradual rollers through some very pretty, green countryside. I was always able to carry enough speed from the downhills into the inclines so I'd suggest holding off breaking as much as you're comfortable on the downhills to make your ride smoother.
* This is roughly the turnaround for the sprint I believe. So if you read the post backwards from here that's basically the full course review right???
As the route continues there is a second climb on this road just passed a bridge that you will come into from a downhill. While you can carry quite a bit of speed into it, you will want to get into a good gear to finish it out. You will still feel the climb but again, it isn't overwhelming.
After that it is a pretty smooth sailing to Highway 99.
* This is the turn for the Olympic I also believe.
This stretch goes through Wynona so there are people and buildings but no stop signs or anything to deal with or slow you down. There are a lot of small cracks in the road and rough pavement on this short stretch. I didn't see anything that would catch a tire but enough to shake your bones a bit. There was a little bit more traffic on this road but everyone gave me plenty of space, slowed down, and I never had any concerns. I only noticed one small climb just past the bridge but it was pretty short.
This stretch has gradual rollers on a very smooth road. The first part of this stretch is a gradual incline leading to a rewarding downhill. This downhill leads into a pretty good climb that you can carry some speed into but you will feel the hill yet have plenty of notice to pick your gear preference. Following this climb is a nice downhill bend back to the south that is fun to fly down and set you up for the flat and easy sailing into Barnsdall.
Now fast forward through that loop again for the 70.3 and back to Barnsdall.
The roller by the church I mentioned in the beginning just outside of Barnsdall is a little tougher on the way back. Carry as much speed as you can into it but it is still a bit of a climb until you get to the church. The road is a little bumpy so find your gear early to avoid chain issues on the incline.
Once back into the park it's a couple of little rollers to the lake but nothing too steep.
Even with the hills this is one of my favorite courses. There are challenging courses and those that are just soul crushingly horrible. This one, fortunately, wasn't a soul crusher. The scenery was fantastic and even on the climbs I found myself taking in the views and not focusing on the "this hill sucks" voice we all hear at one time or another. I was also surprisingly pleased with the smoothness of the roads, how little traffic there was, and also how clean the roads were (not much gravel, debris, etc.)
Barbara, Scott, or whoever else made the call on the race course did a great job! I look forward to racing the course next month and encourage everyone to go for it!
Keep in mind that everything is relative so I can only speak for myself regarding the course. I can't say how "hard" or "easy" it will feel to anyone else but we've all known the course was hilly so if you've spent some time riding hills in training you should be fine. If you've only ridden riverside for coffee and donuts you may have a harder day but at least the view is nice.
The Fast Track gas station in Barnsdall has a self serve hot bar full of fried goodness that was pretty good after my brick today. They also have bait and the lady working there can tell you all the best fishing spots, even if you don't ask.