1. Tips for running strong off the bike: Two things I try to focus on when running off the bike are to really fuel the end of the ride to the best of your ability, and to increase cadence at the end of the ride and beginning of your run off. The transition to run usually means a spike in heart rate and therefore calorie consumption, but it also means it's harder to fuel because less blood will be in the GI tract to aid in digestion. Get the extra calories and hydration in before you get off the bike and you will feel much better during the run. Increasing cadence for the last 15-20 minutes of the bike ride will prime your muscles to make the transition to running, and then upping your cadence in the opening miles of the brick run will keep your pace up and help you settle into a good rhythm without grinding. I also find that when I focus on a technique element like turnover, it helps distract me some from the pain!
2. Tips for open water swimming in a pack: Keep the heart rate under control and do not panic if you are contacted. Open water swimming is already a challenge that puts the body under stress, so becoming overwhelmed when someone bumps you or accidentally dunks you could end your day early if you are not prepared. Mentally prepare for what you will do in various scenarios before getting in the water, and then stay calm and engaged while in a pack. For positioning, look to either be right on someone's feet, or even closer to their hip if you are able to avoid contacting them repeatedly.
3. Tips for using a power meter during a race: A power meter is both one of the most important tools you have on a bike, and also something that can psyche you out during a race if you don't see what you were hoping or expecting. My rule is to use it to your benefit, meaning that if you are solo and needing something to keep you focused and engaged, check in repeatedly and try to hold your numbers. If you are racing and around other athletes, there may be surges and moments that are relatively easy, so just race and forget the numbers. If the power meter is only psyching you out and making you feel anxious, stop letting it control your day and ignore it.
4. Tips for maintaining mental strength and motivation during a race: Develop a mantra for keeping you engaged and focused, and practice it over and over again in training until it is second nature. Remaining in the moment is your best chance for success in racing, constantly monitoring what you need and avoiding the mental drift that usually leads to a slow down. As cliche as it sounds, practice being positive, as this will influence your performance more than any physical component. Finally, prepare yourself mentally for both the good and bad through visualization, so you are ready for any eventuality.
5. Tips for improving your transition: Keep it simple, and practice! I like a very straightforward and clean transition, limiting the clutter so I can focus when I have race brain. Practice a specific order of events until you have it down, and then rehearse it mentally on race morning before you start by walking through from swim exit, etc.