Aaron Burmeister and Dallas Seavey continue to trade the lead as the 2015 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race progresses along the Norton Sound coast.
Hours after Seavey blew through Unalakleet and past a resting Burmeister to take a brief lead in the race, Burmeister turned the tables on the younger Seavey.
While the defending champion rested in Shaktoolik, the Nome musher -- in the hunt for his first Iditarod victory -- spent just 27 minutes in Shaktoolik before heading out for Koyuk, on a stretch of the trail that crosses a frozen Norton Sound, at 3:48 a.m. Monday, according to official Iditarod standings.
"I'm not too concerned," Seavey told Iditarod Insider in Shaktoolik.
"Aaron's been trying to do the whole mind-game thing and I think he takes that stuff really seriously. It's funny because he takes it so seriously, and I could care less what he does. I just outran him by an hour and a half on a 35-mile run.
"I don't think that him leaving here 15 minutes ahead of me is not going to make a big difference. It's not about tricks and gimmicks."
By 7 a.m., though, GPS trackers showed Burmeister starting to head across the Norton Sound ice with a seven-mile lead on Seavey. When the leaders reach Koyuk, the Nome finish line will be only about 170 miles away.
Seavey, who rested for about 4 1/2 hours in Shaktoolik, gave chase shortly after 5 a.m., leaving Shaktoolik just 13 minutes before his father Mitch Seavey came into the checkpoint in third place.
Not far behind on the trail between Unalakleet and Shaktoolik are a pack of competitive racers, including Aliy Zirkle, Jessie Royer, Joar Leifseth Ulsom and a rested Jeff King.
As recently as Kaltag, the last checkpoint on the Yukon River, a confident King talked about the strength of his team.
"I have a huge team and it's easy pulling, but I want to have committed warriors because I'm about to unleash the dragon," he said.
But since then, his dragon has faltered a bit and King is running out of time.
And both Seaveys are strong closers. Last year, for instance, Zirkle owned a three-hour lead over Dallas Seavey out of Shaktoolik that, with the aid of a fierce windstorm, the defending champion was able to overcome.
"If you have the dominant dog team, you can be a little more confident," Dallas Seavey told Iditarod Insider.
If the top racers are able to maintain a pace close to last year's record, a winner should hit the finish line in Nome either just before midnight Tuesday or the early morning hours Wednesday.