Racking one's bike very carefully. It has a big job in just a short while.
In my mind, you're never early on race day. Maybe late, but never too early. You can't put a price on being as relaxed and in control as much as possible when the gun for your swim wave goes off.
As you get more experienced, your habits become more efficient, transition set up is more easily accomplished and you have more time to scout out the area. If you don't have the quickest transitions in your age group, WHY NOT? And who does? You can literally shave minutes from your time. In my most recent race, the shortest total transition time in my age group - T1 plus T2 - was 2:30 (guess who), and the longest 5:59. That's 3 and a half needless minutes, an eternity when checking the race results after you've crossed the line! In the next couple of months I'll blog only about transitions, but you get the point. An early arrival allows for an adequate warm up in each of the disciplines without the feeling that you're hurrying. In my mind, particularly if you are an older athlete, this is the opportunity to really loosen up the shoulders and legs. Not only does your potential for an outstanding performance increase, the probability of injury diminishes...e.g. the common thread of this web site.
Not everyone agrees with this concept. In Kona, the gun for the pros swim start is 6:30 am, females 6:35, and age groupers 7:00. But, if everyone looks set, the starter can release the age groupers as early as 6:55 am. Believe it or not, in what might be the most important athletic event of their lives, at 6:50 there are still people in the transition futzing around with their tires, or helmet straps, or gosh knows what! They've had months to get this done and this lack of preparedness will put them late in the water, late to the start, and perhaps spoil a major portion of the day. What the heck are they thinking?
I have also used this pre-race time to learn. To learn from the other participants, where I appear casual in my inspection of their gear and transition area. As you might expect, those in age groups far different than mine are most eager to help. Those in my age group...less so (ahem).
Lastly, would you rather eat or work out? If you said work out, that's the right answer. You're a real triathlete. You can always eat. I was recently told that French children learn from an early age that, for them anyway, meals are multi course and paced. There's even a cheese course. That's true for us on occasion, but if you can get in a 4 mile run over lunch with a 3 minute shower, or maybe even just wipes, your log book will be smiling when you get home. And don't we all like happy log books?