*when you're definitely not one
The fireline doesn't care how old you are. Unless you are the boss, in which case you may be able to drive around in a truck or post up at a high point as lookout for your crew, you are expected to carry the same amount and do the same work whether you are 18 or 50. Going through helicopter rappel training at 60 (I knew someone who did, the amazing Geo) doesn't make you exempt from the 100 pound packouts.
Yet, every season the rookies seem younger. I had one last year who was born in 1996, for heaven's sake. With some exceptions, it is possible to keep up with these young pups though. Here's what I've learned from years of seeing them come and go.
--Don't take long breaks from training. Young folks can take weeks or even a month off and bounce back pretty quickly. Sadly, this gets a lot harder the older you get. It's better to just stay the course and keep working out.
--Train smarter, not harder. I've known plenty of young guys who will charge out of the gate, seemingly having only two speeds, on and off. Eventually they will hit the wall, while you cruise serenely by. Knowing how to pace yourself and how your body reacts to training is important.
--Want it more. My friends and I regularly reel in millennials on hiking trails and pass them. Part of this is due to the fact that we are in good shape and not all younger people are these days. But determination goes a long way too.
--Eat some green stuff. I know 20-somethings who seem fueled by energy drinks, sugar, and cigarettes, yet can run 6 minute miles easily. This stops working as well as the years go by.
--Don't ignore random aches and pains. While in our younger years we could walk it off, at this point it's best to pay attention. Your body is trying to tell you something. If you ignore it, you could wind up with a chronic injury. Cross train, stretch, drink water, use a foam roller...whatever works for you, and see a professional if necessary.
And there is always another solution:
--Use treachery. If you design the workout, the other people doing it won't know how long/how far/how difficult it is. They may then slow down/complain/feel tired earlier. On one crew, we would hide a vehicle in a small canyon a few miles down a sun-baked road through the high desert. We would then tell the crewmembers they had to run until they got to the truck. We then ran merrily along, knowing it was only about four miles, while the newbies, not seeing any sign of a vehicle, struggled along in growing despair. This technique is very effective!
Granted, there are always outliers, and sayings like "age is just a number" are sometimes wishful thinking. When I was 21 I could run every day on pavement without anything hurting and win races without trying all that hard. But these days there are plenty of 40 and 50 year old firefighters out there hiking up hills, carrying heavy packs, and showing everyone how it's done. These are my people! I'll see you out there.