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"If I've never swum competitively before, how long should I train before I race?"
If you are an adult, train for one month before swimming a long distance race (in a pool) and swim for a solid two months if you are going to race a sprint or a distance race in open water. You are more likely to strain a muscle or wear yourself out in a sprint race than in a distance race in a pool where you don't have to go full speed and can stop if it becomes necessary.
If you are a child, swim for one month before racing any distance. Children need less time to prepare for a race and their muscles have more elasticity and tire more slowly.