In a race where all your gear is left on a hand towel without bodyguards or loyal cheerleaders, it's kind of a crap shoot if your nutrition or helmet or anything ends up where you put it before you started. Don't let this throw you off. It's definitely worth the time to practice transitions from swim to bike and bike to run.
Sometimes these are the people waiting for you outside transitions....
Lay your gear out in order of your sport. Put your bike shoes and socks at the bottom of the towel where you can reach them easily. Put your glasses in your helmet and your helmet on your handlebars. Then, put your running shoes, visor and gels on the top end of the towel.
I liked this tip in Bicyling Magazine from professional triathlete Nicole DeBoom: "Grab what you need and dash through T2. It is more efficient to toss on your hat, strap on your fuel belt and stuff gels into your back pocket while you are trotting out of transition than it is to stand in front of your rack. The key is to keep moving," she says.
As a spectator at quite a few races I also offer this advice. Don't wait until race day to try the shoe clipped onto your bike technique. I am amazed at the Ironman athletes who struggle out of T1 trying to climb onto their bike while simultaneously trying to get their feet into their shoes. Get it together people! Is it really a time saver if you don't know what you are doing? Race smart and either practice your shoe technique or scrap the whole idea and run through T2 with your bike shoes on. Don't add stress to your day. Smooth and effortless should be your goal.