The Embarcadero parking structure doesn't open until 6:00AM so if you can park elsewhere or away from that area and ride your bike to the start line you should be good enough to get in the early waves.
The only "hill" you will encounter is the Coronado bridge. A left hand turn grade slows everyone down (and sometimes to a crawl) because they forget to shift early so be prepared for some heavy traffic. Once on the bridge, you are not allowed to stop for photos or viewing. They have volunteers all over the bridge ready to help you keep moving. The overall ride is very flat.
Speaking of heavy traffic, expect a lot as it gets crowded on the bike path. AND be very weary of cyclists coming the opposite direction. Since this is a public bike path, some casual cyclists have no idea there is an event going on (duh, 2,500 cyclists going one way with numbers plastered all over the bikes might be a clue). Clearly they have a right to be on the path as anybody but in the three consecutive years that I have been riding this event, someone eventually gets nailed in a head-on collision so keep you head up, look way ahead and try to give yourself plenty of space in between the other cyclists.
There are three rest stops filled with food and water so don't worry about nutrition. I go with empty pockets and at the end of the ride my jersey pockets are full.
The post ride party is okay but the quality has gone down over the last three years (IMO). They have a beer garden, sponsor booths and it is where you pick up your SWAG bag and t-shirt post ride. Don't expect to get real food. Three years ago, they had tasty tacos, the year after that they had Sliders and last year they provided a dixie cup sample of someone's vegetarian chili (yuck!). Load up the bikes and head out for a good post ride breakfast!
If this is your first event, you'll be fine as its a good event for first timers and it supports a good cause. Have fun and ride safe. I'll be there again.
Last edited by SirVelo; 08-25-12 at 08:51 AM.